HOW TO READ SCIENTIFIC ARTICLES TRILOGY PART 2: BREAKING DOWN A REVIEW ARTICLE

Gelmon_Innovations in peer review_wc_TP_600
Happy Easters! As promised in my previous article on analyzing primary research articles (link can be found here: https://hemtecks.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/how-to-read-scientific-articles-trilogy-part-1-breaking-down-the-primary-research-paper/), I am going into how to break down a review article in this one.

Difference Between A Research Article And A Review Article.

Before we go into more details, let’s first compare the difference between a research article and review article. There are many but the key difference is the extend of their content, which is the reason why the analyses of these two types are separately written.

As mentioned in the previous article, a research article comprised of introduction/background information, material & methods, results and discussion. Its major objective is to investigate a particular relationship between two matters or look for a trend in certain model/disease. On the other hand, a review article focuses on a summary of several research articles. It may include a material & method section but is mostly consisted of summary of results and analysis of all paper. Authors of a review article aims to provide a trend/idea of a broader topic. This is also the key in distinguishing between the two article types. A research article’s topic is much narrower than that of a review article. A research article may examine the responsible gene for Huntington’s disease in Caucasian Canadians whereas a similar review article may look at several linked genes for Huntington’s disease across different ethnic groups.

For those who would like to learn more about the types of scientific articles, here is a great video summarizing the most common types.

Breaking Down A Review Article

  1. Understand the Background Information

Compared to a research article, analyzing a review article is often harder due to more content, of which not much can be neglected (unlike the material & methods section in empirical journal). Thus, the method of analysis for a review article is also different. To fully understand a review paper, one should first focus on understanding background information. This is especially important since there is so much information in the discussion and they all build on the introduction, which is a major reason why reading review article is harder. You may then ask, how to read the concept-heavy introduction. This can be achieved by our old method: re-read the section. You have probably come across a time where you just cannot understand the concept, but after reading the following paragraph, there is the Aha moment. Thus, I recommend continue reading the section even if you don’t understand a particular concept, it may become clear afterwards. After skimming through the section once, you will usually get a overall idea about the concept which will help you comprehending the details when you re-read the section. During the second reading, you can make notes in your own words to comprehend the details.

  1. Making Notes and Map Out the Concepts

After understanding the background information, you then will move on to the information-heavy sections: results and discussion. There will be ample results collected from several primary articles. Here comes the second obstacle, not only you will need to understanding the analysis of results from each paper but also the overall idea concluded from these papers. You can ease the problem by re-reading and making notes on the topics, which can then be mapped into a concept map. By mapping out the relationship between the results as stated by the review article, the ideas are simplified and visually presented that can be easily comprehended. Thus, by simplifying the ideas via concept maps, you can then fully understand the latter half of the paper.

Know that we have gone over the study methods for both review article types, I will explain how to write a scientific report or paper in my next article. I hope by learning how to analyze a scientific journal, you will find it easier to write up a journal as it teaches you what they are comprised of and what content should be included in each section.

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