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At what stage of research career one can write a 'review article'?

Obviously a graduate student in the beginning stages cannot/may not write one. But how experienced does one need to be before attempting to write reviews? Does authoring a number of papers in the relevant field equips one for that?

Can a graduate student publish a review article? Do acceptance of review article (for publication) depends on the reputation of the author or co-authors?

EDIT: As @JeffE has pointed out anyone can write a review article; the question is about getting this write-up published.

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    I think it depends on the scope of the paper and the field but I would think a grad student that just spent several years immersed in the literature around a subject would be very well positioned to write a review. I actually published a review article shortly after completing my MS but before beginning my PhD. – KennyPeanuts Oct 7 '12 at 16:32
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    Obviously, a graduate student in the beginning stages cannot/may not write one. — What the...? Not only can graduate students write review articles, they should! They may not be able to publish their review paper, but that's a totally different issue. – JeffE Oct 7 '12 at 23:00
  • @JeffE Thank you. I meant "write for publication". Will edit the question. – Noble P. Abraham Oct 8 '12 at 5:31
  • There is precedent for published (by which I mean peer-reviewed) survey articles by beginning graduate students. See for example arxiv.org/abs/0911.0063 – Zach H Oct 21 '13 at 0:25
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First, I'll remark that (at least in fields close to me: physics and chemistry), the process for submitting review articles is typically handled in a different way than other articles (which I'll call “research articles”). Review articles take a lot of effort to write, and that their publication may depend not only on intrinsic quality and scientific criteria, but also on editorial policy: if the journal has already hosted a review on a given topic, it is unlikely to publish another soon afterwards. So, the common practice is to come to an agreement with the editor before writing the full article. Either the editor contacts a scientist to offer him to write a review on a given topic, either an author sends an abstract to the editor asking if the journal would welcome such a review (with no guarantee as to the results of the peer-review process, of course).

This has an important consequence for your question: you can actually ask the editor of the journal of your dreams if a review by you and your co-authors would be welcome. Practices may differ between fields, journals and editors, but asking exactly the person who is going to make the decision is the right course.

Then, we come to what I would call the “customs”. It is indeed typical to gain some authority in your field before writing review articles. This usually means working for a few years in a given field, publishing some articles of your own, in short: getting noticed by your community. As such, it is not a typical thing to do for a graduate student. Maybe at the end of your PhD, jointly with your adviser. Most probably, later in your career: either as an experienced post-doc, or after having gained a faculty position.

With more than a few years of experience, my personal experience is that you perfectly write reviews (and the editors will accept if the work is good). However, it gets easier with seniority, as you will (i) more easily have your work accepted in more prestigious journals, and especially (ii) more easily get invitations to write reviews.

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    You mention this in passing, but I think it's worth emphasizing that for a young researcher a good approach is coauthoring a paper with a more experienced person who can contribute a wider perspective. – Noah Snyder Oct 7 '12 at 19:59
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There are a number of different types of "review articles."

There are book and "show" reviews, but I don't think this is what you mean. These can be written by anyone, but are often written by junior people who are willing to stick their necks out a little.

There are also systematic reviews in which the literature is search systematically and the quality of each piece of literature is assessed against a predetermined set of criteria. Systemic reviews often only focus on a handful of studies. If there are more studies a meta-analysis may be conducted. These again are written by people at all stages.

"Tutorial" reviews which attempts to summarize a large swath of research. A literature review in a thesis is a good example of this type of review. These types of reviews often are published as book chapters. Many are solicited by an editor, but some are submitted. Again people of all stages can publish these.

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Obviously a graduate student in the beginning stages cannot/may not write one.

This is news to me, given my second paper was a review that appeared in a top ranked journal in my field. At the time, I was an undergraduate student.

But how experienced does one need to be before attempting to write reviews? Does authoring a number of papers in the relevant field equips one for that?

Authoring a number of papers can help you develop a reputation, but reading a number of papers is how you understand the field as a whole. The process for the literature review chapter of a dissertation and the process for writing a review are very, very similar.

Similarly, there is no reason why a graduate student could not write a meta-analysis or systematic review. Indeed, in my graduate program, this was a common first or second paper.

Can a graduate student publish a review article? Do acceptance of review article (for publication) depends on the reputation of the author or co-authors?

Often, review papers have to be invited, and this can depend on the reputation of a co-author, or an advisor that makes sure it makes its way to an editor's desk.

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    Could you provide a link to your review paper? I think that would be interesting. I guess you probably know that there are some fields (e.g. mathematics) in which review articles by students are very rare. There are probably more fields though where students would be interested in publishing review articles and who could learn something from your success in this. – Pete L. Clark Jun 5 '14 at 22:50
  • @PeteL.Clark Don't know how I missed this comment, but better late than never: jvi.asm.org/content/81/11/5429.full . I should also note that one of my first projects as a new graduate student was working on a review paper. – Fomite Oct 20 '14 at 15:14

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