I am writing a review paper and I came across many research articles in which the author tries to explain the cause of the experimental observation, where the observation was the aim and main output of the paper.

Can I include those yet-to-be-verified hypothesis about their observations in my review paper? And is it necessary to cite those authors while including those hypotheses regarding the experimental observations in my review paper?

  • Slightly OT: I thought you only get invited to write a review paper if you're (one of the /) the one acclaimed expert in your field. Does "review paper" here (and in a lot of other questions) mean "literature report", for internal use?
    – Karl
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 17:16
  • What makes you think you can leave out the citation if the statement is (or was yet) unproven? That's just intellectual theft!
    – Karl
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 17:25
  • All those earlier questions are also for the same review paper I am working on these days. I hope that answers your query.
    – Deepak
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 17:25
  • Which earlier questions? By you?
    – Karl
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 17:28
  • Yes the questions posted by me in earlier posts which you are referring to.
    – Deepak
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 17:29

2 Answers 2


When writing either a review section of a paper or an entire review paper, it is extremely important to be clear about which contributions came from which paper, and which form of evidence they are: does that paper have direct evidence on that point, rely on other papers/rely on an assumption, or develop the point as speculation/theory/explanation?

Obviously, you should cite any of these that you use, but you should cite them differently. For instance, if you have an article by author X, X might condense the results of previous literature (possibly citing authors Y and Z), present their own experiment, and discuss the theory and possible implications of their own experiment and interpret it in light of the literature. You would want to distinguish the three.

X emphasizes that the previous literature finds a strong relationship between concept 1 and concept 2, and considers the work of Y and Z to be "extremely strong evidence that causality runs both ways" (X, p. 876).

X finds [shows, provides evidence] that [experiment results] [in context].

X argues [concludes, suggests, wonders, hypothesizes...] that [explanation put forth].

I'm guessing you were already thinking about a certain hypothesis, and then you saw X's paper and realized that they had thrown in that hypothesis at the end. Definitely cite them. Even if you had been looking at X's paper for the experimental results, you should also re-read what their discussion/conclusion says, and if those are relevant to the discussion, you should acknowledge the ideas in some way. (When would their discussion or conclusions not be relevant? Perhaps if you're interested in something that they had to account for on the way to their focus.) It could even be a simple mention just to acknowledge that they said it, too.

Many scholars consider concept 1 to be a likely explanation (cf. X, Y and Z, Q).

It's OK if you conclude your review with an interpretation that's similar to what X suggested, as long as you have reviewed articles suggesting other possibilities and you reference as you're concluding that it's similar to X.

Overall, there is mounting evidence that, as X suggested, [explanation].

Your contribution is a consideration of additional material, synthesis of ideas, and your own opinion/emphasis on what's important. For the purposes of publishing, if X has already covered similar area, your review paper may not be extremely interesting or important unless you can show why the overall question/field matters or that people are still working under alternative assumptions or not yet convinced.


Yes, in a review paper, you can't make a single statement without citing someone for it. Except perhaps (that might vary between fields) to point out a missing point in some other work, or a rather vague hypothesis.

Otherwise, you are not writing a review, but an original research article.

  • 2
    "you can't make a single statement without citing someone for it" - I strongly disagree. Many review papers generate hypotheses and future directions; they act as an elaborated introduction and discussion section of a research paper. However, if they don't present any new data, only pose hypotheses and perhaps synthesize work of multiple papers to suggest support for those hypotheses, they are still review articles. Of course if the original source of those hypotheses come from the research papers, those must be cited.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 18:07
  • @BryanKrause Yea, of course. Without original data or analysis, everything is just an opinion, which you can always voice anywere, except in some religious ceremony. But the OP wanted to do the reverse, not cite the source of such an opinion. Least that's how I understood the question.
    – Karl
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 19:14

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