I am currently in the process of waiting for PhD verdict. I have submitted the thesis last 2 weeks for examination and I am thinking while waiting for PhD verdict, I want to write a review paper on my subject. The reason is because I have ran out results from my PhD study for publication and I reckon why not try on reviewing the subject I am studying. My area of research is biological science. My question is whether it is possible to write a review to journal without being invited to do so.

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    Your literal question is obviously not what you mean to ask. Of course you can submit anything anywhere. You surely mean to ask whether there's any point in submitting a review paper... as in whether or not it has any chance of being accepted for publication, apart from the question of whether it's good to take the trouble to write up such a thing in the first place. I'd say that it's good (if there's nothing else in your event queue) to compose review papers, because it's personally educational. However, other people may not be much interested in the perception of a field by a novice. Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 0:30
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    I just did it on mitochondrial origins. I wasn't invited, no one asked for it, many people already did it, my grant somewhat required it, and I definitely needed it to organize the facts and theories I read in the last three years. Hopefully from an objective viewpoint. I was even turned down by one journal stating that they already have one such paper in the pipeline by someone else. Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 12:04

5 Answers 5


Yes, it is absolutely possible to write a review paper without being invited to do so.

How do I know this?

I've done it, several times, in the biological sciences.

The key is to recognize that the review needs to be invited at some point, but that point need not be "before you've written anything down*. If you have a target journal, and you think it is a decent fit for the review paper, I would suggest that you find the email for the appropriate section editor (or the Editor-in-Chief if there is none) and write them a polite email inquiring as to whether or not they would be interested in inviting a review on X topic, a draft of which is attached. Articulate why you think this is useful and interesting to their readership, and hope for the best.

And before we get on the "A PhD isn't enough clout to write a review", my first review was published with an undergraduate as the primary author.


You should check with the journal you plan to submit to. Many do not accept unsolicited review articles, so it would be a waste of time to write something that won't get considered.

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    Every review I've ever published began with "Hey, you want to solicit this unsolicited review?"
    – Fomite
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 1:06

I would like to offer a different opinion, and support writing a review on your PhD area of expertise.

First, it could be a useful learning opportunity for OP, as it gives an incentive to do a literature review by setting a plausible goal for an otherwise tedious task. I also oftentimes find that committing something to writing can be beneficial to the uptake of information.

Second, in many fields a review paper is indeed often co-written with an advisor; in some cases the student may even do the bulk of the initial writing. In this context, I would suggest either speaking to your supervisor before writing to gauge his interest in co-authoring a review paper with you, or speaking to him after an initial draft is completed to allow him to have a judgement on the work.

Third, there can certainly be journals where reviews are not invite-only. As long as your supervisor is willing, it would not hurt to send it and see what comes of it. As there are so many journals out there today, I don't think it is impossible to find one with an editor interested in the manuscript.


Personally I did write a review paper just after getting my PhD. The paper was, to be precise, invited. But it is not the point here.

In my case, I reviewed a niche or subset topic of a new and "trendy" field. I was really sure to be, if not the more conpetent, at least the more up to date person in that specific subject. Otherwise, I wouldn't have done that.


Firstly let me tell you that review papers are always more or less invited. They are written by the experts in the field. Basically it serves as an excellent reference to anyone who wants to learn from the masters. It also generally covers a wide area of the subject. So I would suggest that review paper would not be a good idea for you at this stage. There are no. Of reasons. 1. You are not invited! 2. A PhD degree is not always enough to know adequately about the subject unless you are a top shot. Therefore a PhD candidate can never fall under the category of an "expert". 3. A PhD student may not know the entire length and breadth of the area. So I would suggest that a review paper is not a good idea now. You can certainly do it one day when you are a master yourself but not presently. Besides, it would also be a great idea to ask your advisor.


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    This answer may not be universal. I believe that in some areas it's common for PhD students to write review papers.
    – Thomas
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 22:53
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    I know my PhD colleagues who write review papers with their supervisors. Maybe we come from different background
    – alex
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 22:56
  • Oh yeah that might be the case then. Therefore, I don't see a specific solution to the question. Since it may vary from the field to field.
    – Souvik
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 22:58
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    -1. My first, and heavily cited review paper, violated all three of your points.
    – Fomite
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 1:02
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    -1: I can't imagine that, even in fields where most review articles are written by senior people, that they're all invited. Surely some senior people decide to write a review article by themselves, and surely any journal that publishes review articles would be happy to consider unsolicited review articles from senior researchers. Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 20:30

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