The Conclusion of a Review Paper
Recall from the initial discussion of Review papers that these publications make two kinds of contribution: 1) an organized synthesis of the current state of an area of research according to a (novel) perspective; 2) critical commentary from the writer who eventually recommends directions for further research and/or application.
There are two ways of furnishing critical commentary.
First, critique may be provided at the endof each topical subsection. Sometimes, recommendations are also provided, especially if the Review is particularly complex.
Second, all critique/recommendations are saved for the conclusion.
Which is the best pattern? As always, consider the reader. The more complicated the reading task, the more difficult it is for the reader to absorb the writer’s message. If the topical subsections are fairly straightforward, with little controversy/conflict involved, then it’s okay to save all critique/recommendations for the end of the paper. Many published review papers save the critique until the end, in the concluding section of the paper.
Often, the topics are not so straightforward. In that case, it is easier for the reader (and also for the writer) to finish each section with the writer’s critical evaluation of the material. In this manner, each topical subsection reads like a fairly complete mini-essay; the reader can pause, grab a cup of coffee and a Snickers, and return to the review without sacrificing comprehension. Note that all critical evaluation comes at the END of a subsection. If you find yourself logically needing to provide some critique before continuing on within a particular section, then you need to create a second-level subsection (a subtopic within your main topic subsection – for the visual thinkers, these are the child nodes connections coming off a main/parent node). Keep in mind: the prime directive here is that all critical evaluation is written in a separate paragraph at the end of a section.
Example of Critique and Recommendations
How does all of this relate to the conclusion? In a review paper, the conclusion is a short, bottom-line piece of writing. First, the conclusion offers a brief summary of the main ideas of each topic subsection (generally, only a single sentence or so per MAIN subheaded section) – this is the summary function of a conclusion.(NOTE: If critique in included in the body of the paper, then you can also added a short summary of the critique. This is not required, and depends on the length and complexity of the paper; the longer and harder it is to read, the more likely the author is to include a summary of the critique in the conclusion.)
Second, assuming that critique is NOT in the body of the paper, you'll write the critique. This is an important step for the reader: they've just read your synthesis, and now would like to know what you think about all the work you've done! Much like a research report, the reader wants to know how the reviewed information impacts the field. This is what your critique helps provide.
Finally, the review conclusion ends with your recommendations based on the reviewed research and critique -- what should happen next? Be as targeted as you can here, but do not make suggestions outside the constraints of the perspective you stated in the introduction. For example, if you reviewed the efficacy of a particular activity in terms of its economic impact, you need to make recommendations related to that idea. You'll also find that recommendations for future research can be quite general and bland, e.g. "This area merits further investigation".
Thus, your conclusion will depend partly on the decisions made about critique. If critical evaluation is provided in the body of the paper, it need not be repeated in the conclusion, though it can be. If critical evaluation is not provided in the body of the paper, then it must be provided in the conclusion.
Organization of Conclusion
Critique and/or Recommendations in Body of paper –
Thus, the Conclusion consists of the summary + recommendations for further research.
Legend Summary of Info Summary of Critique Recommendations
Situation 2: Critique in Conclusion of Paper – there are two organizational patterns
- #1 – The first paragraph is summary, second paragraph is critique, third paragraph is recommendations (note: second paragraph is more properly understood as a functional section as you may need more than one paragraph!)
In summary, during the normal ageing process, animals experience age-related cognitive decline. Historically, it was thought that primary contributions to the aetiology of this decline were massive cell loss1 and deterioration of dendritic branching17, 18. However, we now know that the changes occurring during normal ageing are more subtle and selective than was once believed. In fact, the general pattern seems to be that most age-associated behavioural impairments result from region-specific changes in dendritic morphology, cellular connectivity, Ca2+ dysregulation, gene expression or other factors that affect plasticity and ultimately alter the network dynamics of neural ensembles that support cognition.
Of the brain regions affected by ageing, the hippocampus and the PFC seem to be particularly vulnerable, but even within and between these regions the impact of ageing on neuronal function can differ. The morphology of neurons in the PFC is more susceptible to age-related change, as these cells show a decrease in dendritic branching in rats30, 31 and humans32, 33. There is also evidence of a small but significant decline in cell number in area 8A of monkeys that is correlated with working memory impairments16.Although there is evidence of Ca2+ dysregulation in aged PFC neurons65, the functional consequences of this are not yet known. Moreover, so far, there are no reports of multiple single unit recordings in the PFC of awake behaving animals. More is known about the impact of ageing on hippocampal function. Ca2+ dysregulation51, 53, 54 and changes in synaptic connectivity69, 74 might affect plasticity and gene expression, resulting in altered dynamics of hippocampal neuronal ensembles.Because more is known about the neurobiology of ageing in this brain region, there are therapeutic approaches on the horizon that might modify hippocampal neurobiology and slow age-related cognitive decline or partially restore mechanisms of plasticity. For example, agents that reduce intracellular Ca2+ concentration following neural activity could modulate the ratio of LTD and LTP induction, thereby partially restoring normal network dynamics. Considering that the average lifespan is increasing worldwide, understanding the brain mechanisms that are responsible for age-related cognitive impairment, and finding therapeutic agents that might curb this decline, becomes increasingly important.
- #2 – Each paragraph consists of summary of a particular section, the critique for that section, then the recommendations for that section. The number and order of paragraphs parallels the number and order of main topical sections of the paper.
Legend Summary of Info Summary of Critique Recommendations Other Statements
What have these reviews indicated about the efficacy of specific CAM therapies for pain from arthritis and related diseases? First, there are a sufficient number of studies in some areas despite claims often heard about the lack of evidence for CAM. Second, research findings for some of the CAM therapies reviewed here have demonstrated consistent beneficial outcomes for patients with arthritis and related diseases. Specifically, there is moderate support for acupuncture in reducing pain as compared with sham acupuncture and limited support for acupuncture as compared with a wait list for OA of the knee. However, no claims can be made for the superiority of acupuncture across locations of OA and across comparison groups. Further, only limited support exists for the efficacy of acupuncture for FMS with the caveat that acupuncture may actually exacerbate the pain for some patients with FMS. At this point, little is known about acupuncture for patients with RA.
Homeopathy has been demonstrated to be twice as efficacious as placebo for rheumatic conditions, but the outcome was not specifically pain. Furthermore, the interventions included both simple and complex homeopathy as well as individualized and standard treatments and may not represent the system of homeopathy as practiced. More research is needed in this area.
Some herbals and nutraceuticals are also beneficial in reducing pain. Both avocado/soybean unsaponifiables and devil's claw demonstrated promising support for pain of OA with moderate support for Phytodolor and topical capsaicin.Among the herbals used for or promoted for RA, there is strong support for GLA as found, for example, in borage seed oil, evening primrose oil, and blackcurrant seed oil. However, evidence is lacking for other herbals and more high quality research is needed. Research findings also support the benefits of chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine, and SAMe in reducing pain, particularly pain related to OA of the knee. Furthermore, these treatments appear safe to use.
For another example of marked-up conclusion, see this doc.
Early hypotheses on DBS mechanisms proposed that stimulation inhibited neuronal activity at the site of stimulation, imitating the effects of surgical ablation. Recent studies have challenged that view and suggested that while somatic activity near the DBS electrode may be suppressed, high frequency stimulation increases and regularizes the output from the stimulated nucleus by directly activating axons of local projection neurons. It now appears that suprathreshold currents spreading into regions comprised of axonal fibers passing near or through the target structure as well as surrounding nuclei may also contribute to the beneficial effects of DBS. Together, the stimulation-induced regularization of neuronal output patterns are thought to prevent transmission of pathologic bursting and oscillatory activity within the basal ganglia thalamocortical network, thereby enabling compensatory mechanisms that facilitate normal movements.This theory, however, does not entirely explain why therapeutic latencies differ between motor symptoms and why after turning off a DBS system the reemergence of motor symptoms differs among patients.Understanding these processes on a physiological level will be critically important if we are to reach the full potential of DBS as a surgical therapy and will in turn undoubtedly lead us to technological and clinical advancements in the treatment of other neurological disorders.
The section headings (Abstract, Introduction, etc.) should be centered and the body of each section should follow immediately below the heading. Do not begin each section on a new page. If one section ends part of the way down the page, the next section heading follows immediately on the same page.
One important general rule to keep in mind is that a scientific paper is a report about something that has been done in the past. Most of the paper should be written in the PAST TENSE (was, were). The present tense (is, are) is used when stating generalizations or conclusions. The present tense is most often used in the Introduction, Discussion and Conclusion sections of papers. The paper should read as a narrative in which the author describes what was done and what results were obtained from that work.
Every scientific paper must have a self-explanatory title. By reading the title, the work being reported should be clear to the reader without having to read the paper itself. The title, "A Biology Lab Report", tells the reader nothing. An example of a good, self-explanatory title would be: "The Effects of Light and Temperature on the Growth of Populations of the Bacterium, Escherichia coli ". This title reports exactly what the researcher has done by stating three things:
If the title had been only "Effects of Light and Temperature on Escherichia coli ", the reader would have to guess which parameters were measured. (That is, were the effects on reproduction, survival, dry weight or something else?) If the title had been "Effect of Environmental Factors on Growth of Escherichia coli ", the reader would not know which environmental factors were manipulated. If the title had been "Effects of Light and Temperature on the Growth of an Organism", then the reader would not know which organism was studied. In any of the above cases, the reader would be forced to read more of the paper to understand what the researcher had done.
Exceptions do occur: If several factors were manipulated, all of them do not have to be listed. Instead, "Effects of Several Environmental Factors on Growth of Populations ofEscherichia coli " (if more than two or three factors were manipulated) would be appropriate. The same applies if more than two or three organisms were studied. For example, "Effects of Light and Temperature on the Growth of Four Species of Bacteria" would be correct. The researcher would then include the names of the bacteria in the Materials and Methods section of the paper.
The abstract section in a scientific paper is a concise digest of the content of the paper. An abstract is more than a summary. A summary is a brief restatement of preceding text that is intended to orient a reader who has studied the preceding text. An abstract is intended to be self-explanatory without reference to the paper, but is not a substitute for the paper.
The abstract should present, in about 250 words, the purpose of the paper, general materials and methods (including, if any, the scientific and common names of organisms), summarized results, and the major conclusions. Do not include any information that is not contained in the body of the paper. Exclude detailed descriptions of organisms, materials and methods. Tables or figures, references to tables or figures, or references to literature cited usually are not included in this section. The abstract is usually written last. An easy way to write the abstract is to extract the most important points from each section of the paper and then use those points to construct a brief description of your study.
The Introduction is the statement of the problem that you investigated. It should give readers enough information to appreciate your specific objectives within a larger theoretical framework. After placing your work in a broader context, you should state the specific question(s) to be answered. This section may also include background information about the problem such as a summary of any research that has been done on the problem in the past and how the present experiment will help to clarify or expand the knowledge in this general area. All background information gathered from other sources must, of course, be appropriately cited. (Proper citation of references will be described later.)
A helpful strategy in this section is to go from the general, theoretical framework to your specific question. However, do not make the Introduction too broad. Remember that you are writing for classmates who have knowledge similar to yours. Present only the most relevant ideas and get quickly to the point of the paper. For examples, see the Appendix.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
This section explains how and, where relevant, when the experiment was done. The researcher describes the experimental design, the apparatus, methods of gathering data and type of control. If any work was done in a natural habitat, the worker describes the study area, states its location and explains when the work was done. If specimens were collected for study, where and when that material was collected are stated. The general rule to remember is that the Materials and Methods section should be detailed and clear enough so that any reader knowledgeable in basic scientific techniques could duplicate the study if she/he wished to do so. For examples, see the Appendix.
DO NOT write this section as though it were directions in a laboratory exercise book. Instead of writing:
Simply describe how the experiment was done:
Also, DO NOT LIST the equipment used in the experiment. The materials that were used in the research are simply mentioned in the narrative as the experimental procedure is described in detail. If well-known methods were used without changes, simply name the methods (e.g., standard microscopic techniques; standard spectrophotometric techniques). If modified standard techniques were used, describe the changes.
Here the researcher presents summarized data for inspection using narrative text and, where appropriate, tables and figures to display summarized data. Only the results are presented. No interpretation of the data or conclusions about what the data might mean are given in this section. Data assembled in tables and/or figures should supplement the text and present the data in an easily understandable form. Do not present raw data! If tables and/or figures are used, they must be accompanied by narrative text. Do not repeat extensively in the text the data you have presented in tables and figures. But, do not restrict yourself to passing comments either. (For example, only stating that "Results are shown in Table 1." is not appropriate.) The text describes the data presented in the tables and figures and calls attention to the important data that the researcher will discuss in the Discussion section and will use to support Conclusions. (Rules to follow when constructing and presenting figures and tables are presented in a later section of this guide.)
Here, the researcher interprets the data in terms of any patterns that were observed, any relationships among experimental variables that are important and any correlations between variables that are discernible. The author should include any explanations of how the results differed from those hypothesized, or how the results were either different from or similar to those of any related experiments performed by other researchers. Remember that experiments do not always need to show major differences or trends to be important. "Negative" results also need to be explained and may represent something important--perhaps a new or changed focus for your research.
A useful strategy in discussing your experiment is to relate your specific results back to the broad theoretical context presented in the Introduction. Since your Introduction went from the general to a specific question, going from the specific back to the general will help to tie your ideas and arguments together.
This section simply states what the researcher thinks the data mean, and, as such, should relate directly back to the problem/question stated in the introduction. This section should not offer any reasons for those particular conclusions--these should have been presented in the Discussion section. By looking at only the Introduction and Conclusions sections, a reader should have a good idea of what the researcher has investigated and discovered even though the specific details of how the work was done would not be known.
In this section you should give credit to people who have helped you with the research or with writing the paper. If your work has been supported by a grant, you would also give credit for that in this section.
This section lists, in alphabetical order by author, all published information that was referred to anywhere in the text of the paper. It provides the readers with the information needed should they want to refer to the original literature on the general problem. Note that the Literature Cited section includes only those references that were actually mentioned (cited) in the paper. Any other information that the researcher may have read about the problem but did not mention in the paper is not included in this section. This is why the section is called "Literature Cited" instead of "References" or "Bibliography".
The system of citing reference material in scientific journals varies with the particular journal. The method that you will follow is the "author-date" system. Listed below are several examples of how citations should be presented in the text of your paper. The name(s) of the author(s) and year of publication are included in the body of the text. Sentence structure determines the placement of the parentheses.