A singular function of the Nature Reviews journals is the in depth suggestions that editors present to authors, particularly on an article’s narrative.
Great Reviews transcend mere description of printed work to supply a synthesis: they pull collectively particular person analysis findings to extract broader insights, draw out key factors of convergence or spotlight key gaps for future analysis. Reviews even have the best affect when they’re simple to learn and accessible. Ideally, readers with a basic psychology background — together with on the undergraduate degree — ought to be capable of learn any Review in our journal and stroll away with a clear understanding of a area, even when they might not be capable of clarify particular technical particulars. To that finish, every level within the paper should logically comply with from the one earlier than, in order that the scaffolding to know complicated concepts step by step builds because the paper unfolds. In different phrases, a nice Review tells a story, and walks readers by way of that story from begin to end.
“a great Review tells a story, and walks readers through that story from start to finish”
We present authors with suggestions all through the writing course of to assist in crafting the story of their Review. A transparent and logical construction is vital to good storytelling, which is why step one for our authors is to submit a synopsis. The synopsis is principally an prolonged define of the paper: the key headings and subheadings, with a few sentences for every part that define the important thing factors to be coated and an estimated phrase rely.
As a part of the synopsis, we additionally ask authors to supply a brief paragraph that units out the rationale for the Review. Most of our articles are invited, so the goal right here is to not persuade us to publish a paper on this matter. Rather, this paragraph helps us to know the authors’ motivation for learning the subject, the angle they assume is essential and the important thing message they need to emphasize.
Using this paragraph as a information, we ask ourselves whether or not the proposed define captures that message. For occasion, if the goal is to match two ideas in a literature, the group ought to emphasize that comparability and make it simple for the reader to extract key similarities and variations. If the principle message is that the sphere must do ‘X’ to make progress in understanding ‘Y’, the reader wants to have the ability to clearly comply with the logic of the argument: what is thought from the prevailing literature on Y, and the way does X lengthen that information?
With our suggestions in hand, authors proceed to write down the total manuscript. However, our give attention to narrative continues all through all levels of the editorial course of. For instance, our edits to a full draft (each earlier than and after peer evaluate) make sure that the introduction motivates the piece, explains why it will be significant and well timed, and units up the narrative of the remainder of the paper so the reader is aware of what to anticipate. Even although we fastidiously thought-about the paper’s construction and logical movement on the synopsis stage, typically it turns into apparent with the total draft that adjustments would assist to convey the message extra clearly. For instance, if part 2 refers extensively to part 5, maybe the sections ought to be adjoining to scale back redundancy and forestall the reader from needing to flip backwards and forwards throughout the paper.
We additionally test the narrative within the full draft on the degree of particular person paragraphs (and, in our final spherical of edits, on the sentence degree). Each paragraph ought to be explicitly tied again to the principle message of the part. Readers ought to by no means marvel why they’re studying a given paragraph — it ought to be apparent primarily based on what got here earlier than. The story ought to unfold part by part, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence.
A very good narrative can also be targeted, in order that the essential themes come by way of and readers are usually not distracted or overwhelmed. If fascinating however finally tangential data disrupts the movement of the narrative, we’d recommend eradicating it (or shifting it to a Box). On the flip aspect, we frequently ask authors so as to add materials to bridge between foremost concepts.
Importantly, a nice narrative ought to by no means come on the expense of scientific accuracy. A Review ought to draw out a story primarily based on the realities of a given literature — warts and all. Reviews establish what is thought, however equally essential, additionally what’s unknown and must be addressed in future analysis as a result of the prevailing literature is inconsistent, methodologically flawed or just too sparse to attract significant, definitive conclusions.
A sceptic may query the depth of our involvement. After all, the authors are the specialists on the subject. Our suggestions doesn’t undermine that experience; we don’t make recommendations about whether or not the outline of the literature is correct or how the outcomes of a explicit research ought to be interpreted. We go away these facets to the experience of the peer reviewers. Instead, our suggestions focuses on the article’s narrative: our goal is to make sure that authors current scientific materials to knowledgeable and basic readers alike in essentially the most convincing and compelling manner.
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Tell me a story.
Nat Rev Psychol 1, 185 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s44159-022-00051-1
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