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Tips for writing your first scientific literature review article BY Emily Crawford Emily Crawford often retreated to her apartment rooftop in San Francisco to write her review. Photo courtesy of Matthew Perry.
When I undertook the task of writing a scientific literature review article last year, I had hoped that a Google search would reveal a handful of how-to pages thoughtfully created by veterans of this particular writing process. I found nothing of the sort, so I plowed ahead on my own, inventing techniques for myself.
I was running a protein over a nickel column on a Sunday evening in February when my adviser approached me about co-authoring a review article for Annual Review of Biochemistry.
That was fine with me — as a fifth-year graduate student, I had learned to cope with, and even prefer, extreme independence. To be honest, I was excited to have this opportunity to examine the literature in depth and to create something useful out of it.
Getting started Our topic was caspase substrates, a diverse group of proteins essential for programmed cell death and thus important to our understanding of how to kill cancer cells. I would have to assess the limits imposed by the journal 30 pages, six months as well as my own limits and the necessity to balance the writing project with lab work that was essential to finishing my Ph.
Narrowing the scope of the article to conform to these boundaries was perhaps the biggest challenge of this process. Knowing that I work better when I focus on one project at a time, I spent the next two months carrying out all of my regular lab work while only pondering the review article and skimming the literature when I had time.
After that, I transitioned to full-time reading and writing. Afternoons I often spent writing at my apartment or at the library on campus.
I tried to reassure myself by remembering that I had been rather good at writing term papers in college; but this was a larger task and one with the potential for having an impact on someone, somewhere, sometime who wanted to learn about caspase substrates.
In the end, I finished by the deadline well, plus one two-week extension the editor agreed to grant me and was very happy with the product and with all I had learned about caspase substrates, about the scientific literature and about the review-writing process.
I hope the following tips will help other scientists who find themselves in this kind of uncharted territory. Distilling all sorts of data from experiments done by scientists all around the world into a coherent story turned out to be very satisfying.
I look forward to doing it again someday, perhaps in a somewhat more efficient manner. Define the scope of the article. Make an outline, keep lists of topics that are and are not within your scope, and remind yourself to stop any time your reading wanders outside your scope.
My adviser and I settled on devoting the first half of our article to a broad survey of a few key research topics for example, the physical details of the caspase-substrate interaction and devoting the second half to a few highly detailed vignettes about some of the hundreds of known caspase substrates.
Your labmates and collaborators are invaluable resources. Be careful not to let this lead you too far astray. Look for areas that have not yet been thoroughly reviewed or areas for which you think you have a fresh take on old data. Find places to write where you can concentrate, and take breaks often to stretch, get a snack or even step outside for a few minutes.
On days when I struggled with concentration, I often used a timer to structure my day. I would work for 60 minutes, then take a sanity break, then work for another 60 minutes, and on and on.However, if you are writing a review in the humanities, history, or social sciences, a survey of the history of the literature may be what is needed, because what is important is how perspectives have changed through the years or within a certain time period.
Literature Review: Conducting & Writing. This guide will provide research and writing tips to help students complete a literature review assignment. Home; Steps for Conducting a Lit Review; Literature Review Sample 2 Literature Review Sample 3 Have an exemplary literature review?.
If you want to write a shorter review, pick a narrower topic. But if you are going to be writing a longer review or you'd like to explore a more general area of interest, choose a topic that is wide enough so that you will be able to find enough articles to discuss. When I undertook the task of writing a scientific literature review article last year, I had hoped that a Google search would reveal a handful of how-to pages thoughtfully created by veterans of this particular writing .
A guide with information on how to write a literature review. Home; What's a literature review? Examples. Literature Review Examples; Articles (free for CSUC users) from on.
Many of these will contain published examples of literature reviews. Proquest Dissertations and Theses: The Humanities and Social Sciences Collection. Containes. When I undertook the task of writing a scientific literature review article last year, I had hoped that a Google search would reveal a handful of how-to pages thoughtfully created by veterans of this particular writing .