Traditional evidence-based review articles differ from systematic reviews or meta-analyses. They aim to be of common interest and relevance to a particular field, so writers need to selectively review the literature and discuss the topic broadly. Effective review articles base their summary of the subject on works that have comprehensively examined the subject. These articles therefore provide readers with an authoritative synopsis of the subject. While finding and referencing the appropriate literature to create a general overview of a field can be challenging, these articles are written according to a clear, recognizable structure.
Researching Your Topic
Choose a common problem and avoid topics that only have curiosity value. If possible, choose problems that have new information available. Also, emphasize information that may prompt a change in current practice. Likewise, new evidence showing that a standard method is no longer beneficial is also important.
Consult numerous sources of evidence-based reviews when researching the literature on your topic. Look for relevant guidelines that are based on reliable evidence. If you are uncertain about the source or strength of a recommendation, return to the literature and locate the basis for it.
Evaluate the strength and validity of the literature. Look for meta-analyses or clinical trials with important outcomes. Avoid subjective reports or reports repeating unfounded information.
Writing Your Article
Define the topic and purpose of the review and describe its relevance to the subject. One way is to state how many people are currently affected by this and what proportion of society may be affected in the future. An alternative is to discuss how often someone might encounter this issue during a given time period or over the course of his career.
Indicate how the literature search was conducted and what major sources of evidence were used. Show what criteria you used to include or exclude particular studies. Comprehensively identify all major relevant research and critically evaluate its quality. Avoid only using information that supports your conclusions. If there is lack of consensus, address it.
Emphasize your evidence-supported approach. If little evidence exists, show that you have adopted the consensus viewpoint. A comprehensive and balanced review article acknowledges recent developments, unresolved questions, controversies and instances of bias that might affect the quality of the evidence. Highlight key statements from the literature and use these in your discussion. Include a summary of them in tables, figures or other illustrations.
Use primary sources as the basis for determining the importance of evidence. The supporting citation should be a primary research source of the information, not a secondary source that simply cites the original source.
Include current and historically important sources. Generally, references will be key evidence-based recommendations, meta-analyses or groundbreaking articles. For example, include studies you referred to, new information, controversial material, specific quantitative data and information not usually found in general reference textbooks.
- Some articles are not suitable for an evidence-based format because of the nature of the topic, the subjectivity of the article or the lack of adequate evidence.
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images