I have extensively researched about a new area as part of my Doctoral research and want to write and publish a review article in some Science Citation Indexed (SCI) journal. But the problem is that there are only about 20 articles published till date on this new area. I have seen many review papers on other areas published in SCI journals and found that normally the number of cited and referenced articles are quite high (sometimes even above 300 papers). And then there are non-SCI journals where review papers are having very less number of cited and referenced articles (20-50 or more).

  • if you are talking about the same area then it will be the same articles that were reviewed by the other reviewer as per your other question : academia.stackexchange.com/questions/104061/…
    – Solar Mike
    Feb 18, 2018 at 7:57
  • @Solar Mike The two questions are not interlinked.
    – Deepak
    Feb 18, 2018 at 9:59
  • So you are telling us that you have two narrow areas of interest in your research...
    – Solar Mike
    Feb 18, 2018 at 10:43

3 Answers 3


The minimum papers you need to review will depend on two things:

  • Your research the field (which might be relatively small or large)
  • The depth vs breadth of your review

In computer science, there have been quality review papers in highly respected venues which only focus on around 10 papers, but where the review lacked in breadth, it made up for in depth, which can be more important if you are looking to make a valuable contribution to the field.

An example is this paper published in TSE.

  • The paper (link) you provided has 66 references though only 10 papers were shortlisted after 'inclusion/ exclusion' (as per the abstract).
    – Deepak
    Feb 18, 2018 at 8:34
  • Then 66 is a LOT less than the 300 you mention.
    – Solar Mike
    Feb 18, 2018 at 13:08
  • @NumeroUno : That is correct but as implied in the answer, the number of papers cited to conduct the actual review is 10. I was under the impression that you were asking about the number of papers used to compose the dataset for the review and its analyses, which is what influences the quality and depth of your review, and thus, your scientific contribution. Feb 19, 2018 at 9:00

Your article needs to be interesting, the number of articles is secondary. If a field is very new than a review of a few articles could be interesting. However, if there are only 20 artcles it could also mean it is just too early to take stock, and your sub-sub-field is not ready for a review article yet. The purpose of a review article is to find partial answers on which there is some form of consensus, and identify open questions and new directions of research. Is your field sufficiently ripe for that?

Also look outside your discipline. It may be that there is a longstanding research tradition dealing with that issue in another discipline.


Asides the depth of what would be discussed, the area and its level of maturity, the quality of the survey and the definition of its scope also matters. A number of recent and well known literature can be considered while highlighting major strengths and limitations of each proposal as well as new interesting insights that could be considered in the future. The point is that the contribution of the paper should be glaring to the reader of the paper. Also, it may be highly required to properly define the criterion for choosing the articles you are considering if you have chosen a sub-set of literature from a particular scope. This should also reflect in the title and (or) abstract of your paper. Another very important point is the style of organizing your survey paper. For instance with 20 main references you can still write a survey with over 80 references. The other 60 references could be used to strengthen specific points within the paper as well as other secondary issues of importance within the paper. In this case, it is highly recommended you show the readers what value can be derived from those 20 references by showing a summary table with strengths and limitations, salient differences, metrics, qualitative/quantitative comparison etc. or illustrations and charts, all leading to more intuitive questions to be answered in the future.

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