How to write a review article

 “What is a review article?” Many years ago, two Master students asked me this question at the same time.

“A review paper synthesizes the results from several primary literature papers to produce a coherent argument about a topic or focused description of a field. The purpose of a review paper is to succinctly review recent progress in a particular topic. Overall, the paper summarizes the current state of knowledge of the topic. It creates an understanding of the topic for the reader by discussing the findings presented in recent research papers. ” (

How to write a review article

When preparing your review article, please use following template and Endnote style: FESP_ReviewArticle_Template and FESP Endnote Style.

  1. Find your own scope

Read at least 10-20 articles initially. It’s helpful to read the review articles written by other scientists, which will give you an idea what topics are concerned by researchers. But don’t become limited by these review articles, you have to find your angles and attract readers.

  1. Define the topics and the structure of your article
  2. Start to read all papers related to your topics and take notes

It’s time to use search engines, such as Science Direct, Google Scholar. Take as long as you need to understand related issues and the history of this topic. Take notes on what is important and record the reference source. Later on, you will need to import the reference information into Reference Management software like Endnote.  It may take 1-2 days to collect important information for each topic. Depending on the number of topics, you may be able to finish reading within 2-3 weeks.

  1. Work hard to organize all information together.

Show your writing skill, and make the paper logical and elegant.

  1. being careful with copyrighted materials & fair use

“You must obtain the necessary written permission to include material in your article that is owned and held in copyright by a third party, including but not limited to any proprietary text, illustration, table, or other material, including data, audio, video, film stills, screenshots, musical notation, and any supplemental material. ” (

The instruction of obtaining permission is available on the website of each publisher. The processing procedure takes between minutes and several weeks. In case that you want to use copyrighted figures, tables, and texts, start the application as early as possible.

A fair use of copyrighted material is allowed. This issue is within the Law scope. The 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use: “quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author’s observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.” (

  1. Plagiarism and Self-Plagiarism

“Plagiarism is the copying of ideas, text, data and other creative work (e.g. tables, figures and graphs) and presenting it as original research without proper citation. ” (

“How much of someone else’s work can I use without getting permission?”

Under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute, it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports. There are no legal rules permitting the use of a specific number of words, a certain number of musical notes, or percentage of a work. Whether a particular use qualifies as fair use depends on all the circumstances. (

Indiana University defined the word-for-word plagiarism as “when a writer takes a sequence of 7 or more words from another source, but fails to identify the quoted passage, fails to provide the full in-text citation crediting the author(s), and fails to provide the bibliographic reference. ” (

Self- plagiarism: “Authors who submit a manuscript for publication containing data, reviews, conclusions, etc., that have already been disseminated in some significant manner (e.g., published as an article in another journal, presented at a conference, posted on the internet) must clearly indicate to the editors and readers the nature of the previous dissemination.” ( )

  1. Paraphrasing

To avoid plagiarism, you may paraphrase, i.e. transfer original text into your own words. Here is a good guideline at

Useful sources

Pautasso M (2013) Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review. PLoS Comput Biol 9(7): e1003149. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003149 [accessed on 10/24/2014]

Guidelines for writing a Review Article, [accessed on 10/24/2014]

How to Write a Review Article – ATSU, [accessed on 10/24/2014]

Tips for writing your first scientific literature review article, [accessed on 10/24/2014] [accessed on 10/24/2014]

What Is Fair Use? [accessed on 10/24/2014]

The ‘Fair Use’ Rule: When Use of Copyrighted Material is Acceptable, [accessed on 10/24/2014]