Saturday, December 5, 2009

Rodney Dangerfield and Writing a Review Article

I am getting ready to write a review article for a journal and I am wondering, 'What makes for a good review article'? I've published these in the past and I thought I'd ask, 'What do you hope to find when you start to read a review article'? One article I read called review articles the 'Rodney Dangerfield of [academic] writing'. Why is it that these essays get so little respect, when they often have quite useful information?
Dobri Atanassov Batovski notes that 'a review article is expected to provide a summary and/or a synthesis of the findings of selected research contributions being published by other authors. The main purpose of a review article is to examine the current state of the relevant publications on a given topic and to initiate a discussion about the research methodologies and the findings related to the said topic'. Is this a valid and achievable goal?

I realize that there are at least two types of review articles: (1) an essay that reviews multiple books in an extended manner and provides pan-book remarks. (2) an extended argument dealing with one book, e.g. an review that addresses individual essays in a compilation (a review article on a monograph would be included here). The one I am currently writing is on one book that is a compilation of essays by various NT scholars.

Those interested, can see a recent review article that I wrote that looked at three books on identity formation in the New Testament. It is entitled, 'Christian Identity - Created or Construed' Journal of Beliefs and Values (2009) 30.1: 71-77. So, what makes for a good review article?


Randall Short said...

Translations could be tagged with the Rodney Dangerfield label along with review articles. I think that people generally recognize that a thorough review or a good translation is hard work, but perhaps too many view it as scholarship's equivalent of manual labor. In fact, when done well, both require a great deal of creative and critical thinking.

One thing I look for, in addition to helpful overviews of individual theses in their own right, is a genealogy or "family tree" of the ideas and theses under review. How are they related? For instance, it can be immensely helpful and fascinating to see how one thesis wed to another can give birth to yet a third that opens up entirely new vistas into a text.

Anonymous said...

Hullo Brian, speaking of review articles, I did one last year of a book with exactly the same title as your blog. Checkout

J. Brian Tucker said...


Very nice, I wrote a review article on this and 2 other works for Journal of Beliefs and Values, though yours is more extensive. Nice work.