how long should an article review be

how long should an article review be

The ideal length of an article review

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1. Introduction

The value of an article is often judged by the number of citations it receives. Therefore, authors may feel pressured to compress their work into a very abbreviated form in order to get multiple papers out of the same study. This can lead to poor citation of previous work, incomplete explication of methods and results, and heavy use of tables and figures. We do not want to make firm recommendations for the length of conference papers or other less formal venues for scientific communication. The guidelines presented here are intended for the preparation of articles to be submitted to and published in formal journals.

The following is the introduction to the systematic investigation, analysis, and evaluation of the empirical evidence for an ideal article length. The objective is to discuss the ideal length for a paper to be published in a scientific journal in order to make it accessible to the largest possible audience. This essay is based on the premise that different types of articles are best suited to different lengths, and that relatively few journals make this explicit. The essay is also based on the assumption that editors, referees, and authors have much to gain by discussing this issue, and that such discussions will lead to better communication of research results in written form.

2. Factors to consider in determining the length

In general, there are no firm restrictions on the length of CRs, but we believe the ideal review is roughly 3000-5000 words, or about 5-8 pages. In addition, an ideal review need not be uniformly composed at all points. It might start with a short summary including 1-2 figures and a brief abstract. Then, it might expand into a detailed evaluation based on the main features of the work. If the review is of a single seminal work, this might be the whole content of the review. However, if the article is merely a sample of a large body of work, it might be more appropriate to write a detailed evaluation of only the article’s methodology and more general contributions. This would not be an ideal review if viewed in isolation, but some of the very best CRs are written in this fashion, spanning the course of several years on a topic in which a body of related works are examined as a whole. The length restrictions come into play for the author, as few are readily convinced to have their work assessed at such detail but nonetheless this is the style of CR that most benefits authors. On the other hand, some works require very little coverage to evaluate in detail. Imagine an article with a very compact and efficient method for solving a particular problem, or an article with a clever critique of some existing body of work. A brief review of these respective works would mimic the work being evaluated and would thus be quite convenient. In summary, this ideal length and the corresponding depth of coverage are ideal for the Uniform CR, but based on the nature of the work to be evaluated, shorter or longer reviews may be quite appropriate.

3. Benefits of concise article reviews

The acceptance among editors and authors that article reviews should be brief and concise has been slow in coming. A persistent belief among many is that a fuller treatment allows a review to be more comprehensive and accurate. This view is mistaken. A review that is long, diffuse, or repetitive is likely to be requested in full by fewer readers and will provide less guidance to those who do read it. A second, related, argument is that brevity leads to a loss of nuance or complexity of the issues dealt with. This can be the case, but more often it is the challenge of conveying nuance in a brief space that serves to sharpen thinking and writing. Reviewers and editors wanting to assess the comparative value of a short, concise review and a longer treatment on the same subject can do so by writing two reviews of the same article. Analysis might also be made of the relative citation rates or impact of short and long reviews for a particular journal.

4. Drawbacks of lengthy article reviews

If an article review is extensive, it may produce the same results as an original research study. This is a waste of resources as literature reviews should provide valuable information about a topic and not duplicate efforts. In extreme cases, it is possible that an article review could contain too much information. This can be very confusing for the reader and difficult to follow. Remember that the main point of an article review is to provide a summary and a general analysis of the article. Lengthy article reviews are not often read in their entirety and most readers require a brief of the review in order to make a decision on whether they should read the complete review. Lengthy article reviews defeat the objective of providing the reader with a concise summary of a complex article. They take too long to write for the amount of information produced. An effective article review can be written in a few hours and result in a few pages of quality information. If the review takes days to write and ends up being many pages in length, this will not likely be an effective use of the author’s time. Finally, lengthy article reviews can lead to an increase in errors in the information presented. This is mainly due to the confusion of the author and the reader moving away from the main points of the article. Lengthy article review authors could save time by sticking to the main points and doing multiple shorter reviews of different articles. Length of information and mistakenly trying to examine everything in an article are fundamental concerns of article review writing.

5. Conclusion

As we are informed, the evidence suggests that there is no real way to estimate the ideal length of a review. It all depends on the study and the purpose of the review. But like all types of writing, consider who will be reading it; think about what they know and what they might be interested in reading. Tim Albert (1996) ‘Writing for professional publication: Keys to academic and business success’ thinks writing a review can be a useful exercise for the author. Maybe the best suggestion about writing a review is from author Mark Paterson (2003) ‘Writing an article review’ who offers this: ‘although reviews vary widely in terms of quality and detail, most people agree that a good review of an article should reproduce the article in question, but should successively illuminate the article and then evaluate its success’. After all, we have evaluated the length of the review and whether the length affects the article. An article review should be able to illuminate and evaluate an article as Paterson suggested. The result from our little investigation is that the length of a review does affect the article. However, it was suggested in the introduction that longer articles are generally of better quality. The final conclusion from this investigation is that a review of an epidemiological article would be better in the region of 1000 to 2500 words. No specific recommendation has been given for quantitative and qualitative articles, as it was suggested that it all depends on the study. Lastly, if Fowkes and Fulton’s article is used as a benchmark for article quality, then it may be better to do a higher word count review on a more successful article. But in saying this, Albdel Shaheed et al’s review is a good review and is a lot longer than a thousand words, summarizing both qualitative and quantitative synopses. Word limit recommendations are difficult as it is a case of comparing quantity and quality. Word limits did not specify mentioned above which specification of strength of evidence should go where regarding the length suggestion for review of qualitative and quantitative articles. This may be considered in another article and another discussion. Generally, no matter what the article and nature of the study, the lesser the evidence, a little bit less than a sum may be sufficient. And remember, this is only a suggestion for a student looking for a recommended future assignment length. Every student knows that we are always looking for the least work for the highest possible gain. But really, a quality article is worth a quality review no matter what the length. Quality is objective and is not to be argued. And it would be quite hypocritical to say quality review without quality evidence of a review. This would be a case of practice what you preach. As said above, getting a better grade comes with practice. And no amount of words can be given as a specific recommendation to prove this. Written evidence can be erased and a lower amount of word of mouth promises a short and efficient future review assignment and further increase the chance of a generation of higher quality evidence reflecting the article in question. This is an opportunity for all students in a research field to do an assignment and develop article and article review writing skills. Have we led by example? This one is unsure. Maybe you decide.

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