Rheumatology International

, 31:1409 | Cite as

Writing a narrative biomedical review: considerations for authors, peer reviewers, and editors

  • Armen Yuri GasparyanEmail author
  • Lilit Ayvazyan
  • Heather Blackmore
  • George D. Kitas
Review Article


Review articles comprehensively covering a specific topic are crucial for successful research and academic projects. Most editors consider review articles for special and regular issues of journals. Writing a review requires deep knowledge and understanding of a field. The aim of this review is to analyze the main steps in writing a narrative biomedical review and to consider points that may increase the chances of success. We performed a comprehensive search through MEDLINE, EMBASE, Scopus, and Web of Science using the following keywords: review of the literature, narrative review, title, abstract, authorship, ethics, peer review, research methods, medical writing, scientific writing, and writing standards. Opinions expressed in the review are also based on personal experience as authors, peer reviewers, and editors.


Narrative review Title Abstract Authorship Ethics Peer-review Research methods Medical writing 



The authors thank Dr. Dimitri P. Mikhailidis, academic head of the Department of Clinical Biochemistry (Vascular Prevention Clinic), Royal Free Hospital, University College London Medical School, University College London (UCL), London, United Kingdom, and Dr. Jayashree Shanker, head of Functional Genomics Department, Thrombosis Research Institute, Bangalore, India, for critical comments and editing of the final version of the review. AYG and GDK thank the Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, UK (A Teaching Trust of University of Birmingham, UK), for support.

Conflict of interest

AYG is a sponsored member of the European Association of Science Editors and member of the World Association of Medical Editors. He also serves as an editorial advisory board member and reviewer of more than 20 rheumatological, cardiological and general medical journals.

LA declares no conflict of interest.

HB is a member of the University of Cambridge British Heart Foundation 4-year PhD programme in Cardiovascular Research.

GDK is editorial board member of 5 international journals and reviewer for more than 30 international journals and research funding bodies.


  1. 1.
    Gasparyan AY, Banach M (2009) A medium of science communication in our times. Arch Med Sci 5:1–2Google Scholar
  2. 2.
  3. 3.
    Gasparyan AY (2010) Thoughts on impact factors and editing of medical journals. Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets 9:2–5PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Werbin N (2005) [Review articles–to write, to read or to throw away?]. Harefauh 144:558–560, 598 (Hebrew)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Habibi E, Mirhosseini Z, Majidi M (2010) Medical publications (2002–2009) of islamic countries; a Medline-based study compared to non-islamic countries. Iran J Med Sci 35:226–235Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Smith R (2006) The trouble with medical journals. J R Soc Med 99:115–119Google Scholar
  7. 7.
  8. 8.
    Jacobs A, Wager E (2005) European Medical Writers Association (EMWA) guidelines on the role of medical writers in developing peer-reviewed publications. Curr Med Res Opin 21:317–322PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    EASE guidelines for authors and translators of scientific articles to be published in English. Accessed 24 Nov 2010
  10. 10.
    Moore A (2010) What’s in a title? A two-step approach to optimisation for man and machine: writing good titles is a crucial part of optimising articles’ chances of being peer reviewed, and later found in the literature via Google: here are some tips. Bioessays 32:183–184PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Luo YH (2010) How to write an effective English title for an andrological paper? Zhonghua Nan Ke Xue 16:99–105Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Christensen NB, Kume H, Autorino R (2009) How to write titles and abstracts for readers. Int J Urol 16:2–3PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Onen F (2006) Familial Mediterranean fever. Rheumatol Int 26:489–496PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Panoulas VF, Metsios GS, Pace AV, John H, Treharne GJ, Banks MJ, Kitas GD (2008) Hypertension in rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatology (Oxford) 47:1286–1298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Yurdakul S, Yazici H (2008) Behçet’s syndrome. Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol 22:793–809PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Scott DL, Wolfe F, Huizinga TW (2010) Rheumatoid arthritis. Lancet 376:1094–1108PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Keiserman B, da Silva LF, Keiserman MW, von Mühlen CA, Staub HL (2010) Lupoid sclerosis. Rheumatol Int 30:431–434PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Hasani-Ranjbar S, Nayebi N, Moradi L, Mehri A, Larijani B, Abdollahi M (2010) The efficacy and safety of herbal medicines used in the treatment of hyperlipidemia; a systematic review. Curr Pharm Des 16:2935–2947PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Ligthart SA, van Charante EP, Van Gool WA, Richard E (2010) Treatment of cardiovascular risk factors to prevent cognitive decline and dementia: a systematic review. Vasc Health Risk Manag 6:775–785PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Yao Q, Altman RD, Brahn E (2009) Periostitis and hypertrophic pulmonary osteoarthropathy: report of 2 cases and review of the literature. Semin Arthritis Rheum 38:458–466PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Rashid-Farokhi F, Cheraghvandi A, Masjedi MR (2009) Pheochromocytoma crisis due to glucocorticoid administration: a case report and review of the literature. Arch Iran Med 12:190–194PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Trapani S, Mariotti P, Resti M, Nappini L, de Martino M, Falcini F (2010) Severe hemorrhagic bullous lesions in Henoch Schonlein purpura: three pediatric cases and review of the literature. Rheumatol Int 30:1355–1359PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Kornerup KN, Page CP (2007) The role of platelets in the pathophysiology of asthma. Platelets 18:319–328PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Eleftheriadis T, Lawson BR (2009) Toll-like receptors and kidney diseases. Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets 8:191–201PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Salari Sharif P, Abdollahi M (2010) The role of platelets in bone remodeling. Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets 9:393–399Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Woollard KJ, Chin-Dusting J (2007) Therapeutic targeting of p-selectin in atherosclerosis. Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets 6:69–74PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Cocco G, Chu DC, Pandolfi S (2010) Colchicine in clinical medicine. A guide for internists. Eur J Intern Med 21:503–508PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Leaf A, Kang JX, Xiao YF (2008) Fish oil fatty acids as cardiovascular drugs. Curr Vasc Pharmacol 6:1–12PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Hosseini-Tabatabaei A, Abdollahi M (2008) Potassium channel openers and improvement of toxic stress: do they have role in the management of inflammatory bowel disease? Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets 7:129–135PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Endresen GK (2007) Fibromyalgia: a rheumatologic diagnosis? Rheumatol Int 27:999–1004PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Jacques SJ, Sebire NJ (2010) The impact of article titles on citation hits: an analysis of general and specialist medical journals. J R Soc Med Sh Rep 1:2. doi: 10.1258/shorts.2009.100020
  32. 32.
    Kitas GD, Erb N (2003) Tackling ischaemic heart disease in rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatology (Oxford) 42:607–613CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Gasparyan AY, Watson T, Lip GY (2008) The role of aspirin in cardiovascular prevention: implications of aspirin resistance. J Am Coll Cardiol 51:1829–1843PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Distler JH, Beyer C, Schett G, Lüscher TF, Gay S, Distler O (2009) Endothelial progenitor cells: novel players in the pathogenesis of rheumatic diseases. Arthritis Rheum 60:3168–3179PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Ben-Chetrit E, Touitou I (2009) Familial Mediterranean fever in the world. Arthritis Rheum 61:1447–1453PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Hartley J (2004) Current findings from research on structured abstracts. J Med Libr Assoc 92:368–371PubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Salari Sharif P, Abdollahi M, Larijani B (2010) Current, new and future treatments of osteoporosis. Rheumatol Int 31:289–300Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Vila PM, Zafar MU, Badimon JJ (2009) Platelet reactivity and nonresponse to dual antiplatelet therapy: a review. Platelets 20:531–538PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Cleary M, Hunt GE, Horsfall J (2009) Conducting efficient literature searches. J Psychosoc Nurs Ment Health Serv 47:34–41Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    La Regina M, Gasparyan AY, Orlandini F, Prisco D (2010) Behçet’s disease as a model of venous thrombosis. Open Cardiovasc Med J 4:71–77PubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Dotsenko O (2010) Stem/Progenitor cells, atherosclerosis and cardiovascular regeneration. Open Cardiovasc Med J 4:97–104PubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Mulrow CD (1987) The medical review article: state of the science. Ann Intern Med 106:485–488PubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    McAlister FA, Clark HD, van Walraven C, Straus SE, Lawson FM, Moher D, Mulrow CD (1999) The medical review article revisited: has the science improved? Ann Intern Med 131:947–951PubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Falagas ME, Pitsouni EI, Malietzis GA, Pappas G (2008) Comparison of PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, and Google Scholar: strengths and weaknesses. FASEB J 22:338–42 Google Scholar
  45. 45.
  46. 46.
  47. 47.
    Merat S, Khatibzadeh S, Mesgarpour B, Malekzadeh R (2009) A survey of the current status of web-based databases indexing Iranian journals. Arch Iran Med 12:271–278PubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Satyanarayana K, Sharma A (2010) Biomedical journals in India: some critical concerns. Indian J Med Res 132:119–122PubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Chand V, Rosenfeldt FL, Pepe S (2008) The publication rate and impact of abstracts presented at the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand (1999–2005). Heart Lung Circ 17:375–379PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Van Royen P, Sandholzer H, Griffiths F, Lionis C, Rethans JJ, Galí F, Eilat-Tsanani S, Hummers-Pradier E (2010) Are presentations of abstracts at EGPRN meetings followed by publication? Eur J Gen Pract 16:100–105PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Song J, Li M, Hwang DH, Ricciotti RW, Chang A (2010) The outcome of abstracts presented at the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology annual meetings. Mod Pathol 23:682–685PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Davidoff F, DeAngelis CD, Drazen JM, Hoey J, Højgaard L, Horton R, Kotzin S, Nicholls MG, Nylenna M, Overbeke AJ, Sox HC, Van Der Weyden MB, Wilkes MS (2001) Sponsorship, authorship, and accountability. Lancet 358:854–856PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Drazen JM, de Leeuw PW, Laine C, Mulrow C, DeAngelis CD, Frizelle FA, Godlee F, Haug C, Hébert PC, James A, Kotzin S, Marusic A, Reyes H, Rosenberg J, Sahni P, Van der Weyden MB, Zhaori G (2010) Toward more uniform conflict disclosures—the updated ICMJE conflict of interest reporting form. N Engl J Med 363:188–189PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Hutchison BG (1993) Critical appraisal of review articles. Can Fam Physician 39:1097–1102PubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    Ben-Chetrit E, Levy M (1998) Familial Mediterranean fever. Lancet 351:659–664PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. 56.
    Sambrook P, Cooper C (2006) Osteoporosis. Lancet 367:2010–2018PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. 57.
    Hochberg ME, Chase JM, Gotelli NJ, Hastings A, Naeem S (2009) The tragedy of the reviewer commons. Ecol Lett 12:2–4PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. 58.
    de Mesnard L (2010) On Hochberg et al. “The tragedy of the reviewer commons”. Scientometrics 84:903–17. doi: 10.1007/s11192-009-0141-8 Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Armen Yuri Gasparyan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lilit Ayvazyan
    • 2
  • Heather Blackmore
    • 3
  • George D. Kitas
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Rheumatology, Clinical Research Unit, Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (Teaching Trust of University of Birmingham, UK)Russell’s Hall HospitalDudleyUnited Kingdom
  2. 2.Department of Medical ChemistryYerevan State Medical UniversityYerevanArmenia
  3. 3.Institute of Metabolic Sciences, Metabolic Research Laboratories, Addenbrookes HospitalUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUnited Kingdom
  4. 4.Arthritis Research UK (AR UK) Epidemiology UnitUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUnited Kingdom

Personalised recommendations