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Science Writing

What is a review article? 

A review article synthesizes information from other studies. It does not generate new knowledge but rather gives an idea of the current state of a topic. It will not have a methodology section and can be laid out in several different ways. Literature reviews have subheadings that can be topical, chronological, or methodological, depending on the subject. Review articles will typically be structured like this: 

  • Introduction

  • Main Analysis
    • Subheading - Topic 1

    • Subheading - Topic 2

    • Subheading - Topic 3

  • Conclusion

How to Write a Review Article

The introduction will include:

  • A very general background introducing your topic

  • An overview of what the review is about, including its purpose 

  • A problem statement ("Large levels of plastics in the ocean are threatening multiple ecosystems.")

Things to Avoid: 

  • Excessive length

  • Leaving out the justification for the study

The main body will be the bulk of your paper. It will include information that's arranged sequentially into different sections. Normally that will be either chronologically, thematically, or methodologically, depending on your topic. You will use subheadings for each sections that indicate what that portion will contain. It's extremely helpful to make an outline while you're planning your paper. For example, here is an outline for a paper about Swem Library:

  • Introduction: What is Swem Library, where is it located, general information about W&M

  • Main Body

    • History of Swem

      • Various buildings

      • Who Earl Gregg Swem was

      • What was collected in the past 

    • Current Operations

      • Current state of collections

      • Services provided

      • Importance on campus 

    • Future Directions

      • The library's strategic plan

      • Changes in libraries nationwide

  • Conclusion

Things to avoid: 

  • Listing facts without providing analysis

  • Sections that are not organized in a logical way

  • Abrupt changes in between different topics -- a lack of "flow"

The conclusion is where you will restate your major findings, interpretations, and suggest greater significance or future directions. It should be brief, one page at the most, and should recap the results of your analysis. 

Things to Avoid: 

  • Introducing large ideas not already covered in the paper 

  • Excessive length -- conclusion should be brief 

Sample Review Articles

Instruction & Research Librarian

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Alexandra Flores
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