Writing@CSU Guide

Review Essays for the Biological sciences

A review paper for the biological sciences serves to discuss and synthesize key findings on a particular subject. Review papers are helpful to the writer and their colleagues in gaining critical awareness in specialized fields that may or may not be their own.

This guide explains what a review paper is and identifies several approaches to writing a review paper. Although much of the information is geared directly to the biological sciences, it is generally applicable to review papers in all fields.

What is a Review Paper?

A review paper is a synthesis of primary sources (mainly research papers presented in academic journals) on a given topic. A biological review paper demonstrates that the writer has thorough understanding of the literature and can formulate a useful analysis. While no new research is presented by the writer, the field benefits from the review by recieving a new perspective. There are several approaches one may take when writing a biological review:

A State of the art review

A state of the art review considers mainly the most current research in a given area. The review may offer new perspectives on an issue or point out an area in need of further research.

A Historical review

A historical review is a survey of the development of a particular field of study. It may examine the early stages of the field, key findings to present, key theoretical models and their evolution, etc.

A Comparison of perspectives review

A comparison of perspectives review contrasts various ways of looking at a certain topic. If in fact there is a debate over some process or idea, a comparison of perspectives review may illustrate the research that supports both sides. A comparison of perspectives review may introduce a new perspective by way of comparing it to another.

A Synthesis of two fields review

Many times researchers in different fields may be working on similar problems. A synthesis of two fields review provides insights into a given topic based on a review of the literature from two or more disciplines.

A Theoretical model building review

A theoretical model building review examines the literature within a given area with the intention of developing new theoretical assumptions.

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