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01/16/2020

It is also very much about the literature (what works in journals). It is not “based on” data or “presents” results from other sources. The goal is a well-reasoned and coherent overview of “what’s” working in the field that is not dependent on what does not. So what should that framework look like? And how can readers easily distinguish between a review paper and a “guru’s” personal opinion? That depends on the person reading. For example, when I’m writing for a web portal, I don’t need to read up on a lot of esoteric topics. I do my best to make sure the articles have something to say about the subjects I cover. But I might not be in the habit of reading the book I’m summarizing. When I’m summarizing for an industry publication, I do a lot of reading.

It is also very much about the literature (what works in journals). It is not “based on” data or “presents” results from other sources. The goal is a well-reasoned and coherent overview of “what’s” working in the field that is not dependent on what does not. So what should that framework look like? And how can readers easily distinguish between a review paper and a “guru’s” personal opinion? That depends on the person reading. For example, when I’m writing for a web portal, I don’t need to read up on a lot of esoteric topics. I do my best to make sure the articles have something to say about the subjects I cover. But I might not be in the habit of reading the book I’m summarizing. When I’m summarizing for an industry publication, I do a lot of reading.
You need to take care of two things if you are summarizing for an industry publication: 1) figure out what the readers want and want to read, and 2) figure out where to draw a line between the “content” and the personal opinion.
When I was writing about the literature on human health and nutrition in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Everything, I knew I had to focus on the basic issues, even though I was going to give some personal opinions. However, when I started writing for a portal, that wasn’t necessary, especially if it’s a niche publication where “how it’s done” is more important than the “whys”.
If I’m doing a review, I’m going to be asking my main editor to look at the papers and give me some advice on what topics I should focus on. I’m going to check out the literature on the topic I want to cover, and give me some feedback after I’ve read it. (I can always find a shortcut to my book by going to your website, but it’s not my usual default.)
If I want to discuss a book with a book publisher, I’ll ask to read it before doing the review. If I want to discuss a book in public, I’ll either read it first, or ask for a reference-review paper. (This is a common tactic for people who want to be invited into an editor’s house.)
For every question I need help with, I try to find a reliable source of information. Some of the most common sources for reviews are textbooks, websites, journals, books, reports, and conference proceedings. Sometimes, I check the official website for a conference, like I did during my recent visit to a “nutrition conference” in Sweden.
One trick is to read the abstract of the article you want to write about. The title is just a recommendation. What about the title? Don’t be afraid to give your personal opinion on it. One thing you always want in a review is for the reader to feel like she or he can relate to the author.
The last thing you do before starting a review is to pick a topic, decide about the order in which you’re going to write about it, and to identify some key points to emphasize. Here are a couple of suggested topics in general:
How are the trends shaping up in the field?
What do the authors say about the major issues raised by these trends (e.g. is protein being overhyped or underhyped, and why