In the Information for Authors of several (health) related journals, manuscript types may include original research and review articles, among others.

I thought systematic reviews (whether quantitative or qualitative) should be submitted as review submissions, as opposed to, for example, original studies with novel findings based on data collected or analyzed by authors. However, the guides in those journals say a review requires an unstructured abstract, as in narrative reviews.

In this answer, review articles can be considered original observations. So why do some journals distinguish between review articles and original research? And, under which category should systematic reviews be submitted to these journals?

  • There is always the option to do an inquiry where you can propose what you want to write about, and the editors will reply if it fits and under which category.
    – BioGeo
    Dec 22, 2016 at 22:57
  • Not to mention that reviews are often "invited" which means that either the journal asked you for it, or you asked the journal and then they sent you an invitation.
    – BioGeo
    Dec 22, 2016 at 22:59

2 Answers 2


I can see a good case to be made on either side:

  • A systematic review, unlike a more traditional narrative review, is often an explicit numerical meta-analysis of prior data. Its systematicity allows it to be an actual experiment with objectively verifiable conclusions, and thus it may be reasonably considered original research on a new data set drawn from the literature.
  • Systematic reviews still, however, are organization and analysis of other studies, and so could be grouped in with other reviews.

Since both of these are reasonable, I suspect that there is no way to tell which perspective a particular publication subscribes to without reading their guidance to authors or asking their editorial staff (who will no doubt be happy to answer the question).


Under which category should systematic reviews be submitted to these journals?

This will depend on the journal. If a particular journal's instructions are unclear, I suggest:

  • looking through the back catalog of previous published papers and noting the article type under which systematic reviews have been classified; or
  • contacting the editorial team to clarify the situation.

In the journals I help edit, the classification of the article type is not set in stone, but an internal designation that allows us to determine word counts, reference counts and other production concerns. Sometimes it is difficult to tell. For example, a research article may be written in such a way as to be better classified as a perspective or reflective piece. In those cases, deputy editors work closely with the authors so that they understand how to meet our specifications.

Why do some journals distinguish between review articles and original research?

Journals will have their own reasons. In the journals I help edit -- one for a general medical audience and another for a specialist audience -- review articles are classified separately for two reasons:

  1. They allow us to feature them with other practice-related state-of-the-art articles.
  2. Systematic reviews have specific editorial requirements due to their nature. That is, they are generally longer, require longer reference lists, present larger tables, etc. For example, the typical original research article is limited to 2,500 words and 25 references, while the systematic review class allows for 3,500 words and 50 references.

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