Not to be confused with a “peer reviewed journal,” Review articles are an attempt by one or more writers to sum up the current state of the research on a particular topic. Ideally, the writer searches for everything relevant to the topic, and then sorts it all out into a coherent view of the “state of the art” as it now stands. Review Articles will teach you about::
- the main people working in a field
- recent major advances and discoveries
- significant gaps in the research
- current debates
- ideas of where research might go next
Review Articles are virtual gold mines if you want to find out what the key articles are for a given topic. If you read and thoroughly digest a good review article, you should be able to “talk the talk” about a given topic. Unlike research articles, review articles are good places to get a basic idea about a topic.
So, how do I find Review Articles?
In most databases and indexes, you can limit your search to include only review articles. Some databases might use the term "literature review," but it's the same thing. Set up your search like usual, then find the limit for review articles, select it, and run your search.
If you open up PubMed, you can search for review articles on the drug Paxil by putting “Paxil” in the search bar, then clicking the SEARCH button. Look at the list of filters on the left-hand side of the page of search results. Under “Article Type” you’ll see a link labeled “Review”.
After you run your search, scroll down the results page and look on the right-hand side for the box labeled “Search Details”. This shows you the search the PubMed actually ran, as opposed to what you put in. Doing that shows that PubMed added the term “paroxetine” to your search, which is the generic name of Paxil. The search details can tell you a lot about why a search did or didn’t work the way you expected.