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How to write a literature review

From Nature Careers

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Literature reviews are important resources for scientists. They provide historical context for a field while offering opinions on its future trajectory. Creating them can provide inspiration for one’s own research, as well as some practice in writing. But few scientists are trained in how to write a review — or in what constitutes an excellent one. Even picking the appropriate software to use can be an involved decision. So Nature asked editors and working scientists with well-cited reviews for their tips.

Tools and techniques

Most reference managers on the market offer similar capabilities when it comes to providing a Microsoft Word plug-in and producing different citation styles. But depending on your working preferences, some might be more suitable than others.


Reference managers

Attribute EndNote Mendeley Zotero Paperpile
Cost A one-time cost of around US$340 but comes with discounts for academics; around $150 for students Free version available Free version available Low and comes with academic discounts
Level of user support Extensive user tutorials available; dedicated help desk Extensive user tutorials available; global network of 5,000 volunteers to advise users Forum discussions to troubleshoot Forum discussions to troubleshoot
Desktop version available for offline use? Available Available Available Unavailable
Document storage on cloud Up to 2 GB (free version) Up to 2 GB (free version) Up to 300 MB (free version) Storage linked to Google Drive
Compatible with Google Docs? No No Yes Yes
Supports collaborative working? No group working References can be shared or edited by a maximum of three other users (or more in the paid-for version) No limit on the number of users No limit on the number of users

Here is a comparison of the more popular collaborative writing tools, but there are other options, including Fidus Writer,, Authorea and Stencila.


Collaborative writing tools

Attribute Manubot Overleaf Google Docs
Cost Free, open source $15–30 per month, comes with academic discounts Free, comes with a Google account
Writing language Type and write in Markdown* Type and format in LaTex* Standard word processor
Can be used with a mobile device? No No Yes
References Bibliographies are built using DOIs, circumventing reference managers Citation styles can be imported from reference managers Possible but requires additional referencing tools in a plug-in, such as Paperpile

Rea the full article on Nature Careers:

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