The Scientific Review Paper

What is a Review paper? According to the APA (2001, 7): "Review articles, including meta-analyses, are critical evaluations of material that has already been published. By organizing, integrating, and evaluating previously published material, the author of a review article considers the progress of current research toward clarifying a problem. In a sense, a review article is tutorial in that the author

There are many different types of reviews, for example, reviews of methods or historical reviews. You will probably be writing the most common and useful review (for a health practitioner): The State of the Art Review-- "A state-of-the-art review presents an up-to-date, interpretative synthesis of our knowledge of a certain subject or issue, with emphasis on the most recent literature. For example, an author might look at what is currently known about the advantages and disadvantages of a particular surgical method for mastectomy, or a particular chemotherapy regime in the treatment of breast cancer." --"How and Why Biologists Write", Writing Papers in the Biological Sciences, McMillan, 2006, 114 (bolding added).

Your Assignment: To help prepare you to read reviews for pretty much the rest of your medical career AND prepare the introduction to your thesis (not the publishable version!), you will write a review paper covering the topics implied by the research question in your thesis.  There are two approaches to this assignment.  First, you can write the review with eventual publication (or some other use) in mind.  Students in this class have published their reviews (not many, but it does happen) and their work has been used by their labs as part of the groundwork for new students.  In at least one instance, the PI was so impressed with the review that the student was asked to draft the intro to the publishable version based on the work.  

Second, you can write the review solely for the purpose of using it to form the introduction to your thesis.  The difference in the two approaches is how comprehensive the review needs to be.  If planning for publication, your review will need more sources and more thorough coverage; if it is used just for the thesis or for the lab, it can be more specific, more tailored, and less narratively satisfying.

There is no set length requirement; the average review in this class is 7-10 pages, the minimum is 5 pages, and please do not exceed 15 pages!  You will use APA formatting style for your review paper, unless your PI requests otherwise.  (For the publishable paper, you use the citation style mandated by the journal).  The paper will be double-spaced, use a 12 pt serif font (e.g., NTR), be camera-ready (figures embedded in text), and be stapled.


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