Skip to main content

Systematic Review: Case Study - Writing


​Cari and Lee carefully check the guidelines of the journal where they intend to submit their review. It clearly identifies specific sections they must include, as well as word limits, referencing formats, and style guidance (including which spell checker language they need to use). They also carefully review the journal’s scope to make sure their systematic review article will fit in, and consider how specialised the readership is likely to be. Because their study is of interest in many areas, they have chosen a general health-care journal with clear open-access policies. 

At this stage, Cari and Lee also meet again with their specialist librarian colleague to ensure they have not selected a predatory publisher, and to see if there are any other good publishing options they have overlooked. 

First Draft

Now that they are happy with their journal selection, Cari and Lee make note of the journal’s rules, set up a shared document with the required headings, and identify who will write each section. 

They decide on a date by which to prepare their first draft, and agree that at this stage they just want to ensure they have the main ideas in the right places. They won’t worry too much about formatting or wording at this stage. Cari remembers to include a citation to the protocol she registered with PROSPERO right at the start of the review process. 

Developing the Draft

Once the first draft is completed, Cari and Lee wait a few days, then read over it individually. They each print off a separate version and add their own comments and edits, then meet to discuss their notes. They realise that some of the text is out of order or repetitive, while some other points are missing. They know this is normal when starting on a big piece of writing, so they’re happy to reorganise the information as necessary - that’s one reason why they haven’t focussed too much on wording  or referencing at this point.  They are now ready to start refining the wording, adding in extra detail and thinking about the word count requirements. 

Getting Feedback

​Cari and Lee both know that however good they are at writing, there will inevitably be mistakes. They are also aware that they have been engrossed in the topic for some time, and might be making incorrect assumptions about what is common knowledge or clearly explained. They recruit a few trusted colleagues to provide feedback on their work. The feedback identifies where additional explanation is needed. One colleague helpfully suggests a useful diagram that clarifies some information while also reducing the word count. 

Now that they are happy everything is ready, they ensure all the references are included and correctly formatted, run one final spelling check, and submit their review to the journal.