Steps to Write a Survey Paper/Review Article
Steps to Write a Survey Paper/Review Article

What are the steps to write a survey paper/review article is a very common query of all time asked by most of the researchers from search engines. Before, directly going to tips of writing a survey paper one should know what is survey paper/review article? Review article, Survey paper is synonym, paper, article is also synonym and are used interchangeably.

Survey/review paper is an article which summarizes existing papers in an intuitive way, in spite of providing new facts, analysis or experiments. Or “A paper that abridges and sorted out late research brings about a novel way that incorporates and adds understanding to work in the field. A review article accepts general information of the domain; it underscores the characterization of the current writing, creating a viewpoint on the zone, and assessing patterns.” They are usually published in the review journals and are written by expert researchers in that area of research. Mostly, journal chief editors invite survey papers from the expert researchers in a specific field, but they can also be written and published by new researchers if quality is not compromised.

One questions comes to mind that what is the benefit of writing a review article? A review article/survey paper is a service towards the scientific community; it means that you are writing paper for them. As, it makes easy for new researchers or the researchers who want to change their area of research or want to work on some new area by providing summary of existing papers by stating their advantages and disadvantages and future research directions. Majority of researchers write survey paper after consulting different papers but most important thing is to understand the scientific topic, its flow and future insights. You must make sure that main subject area is going to be covered in your review paper. Moreover, make sure to write new and original review paper instead of copying someone else’s idea, see if there is any existing survey paper on the same or similar topic, then first point out the limitations of that paper and then state your review article contributions. Survey/review paper can be written individually as well as by a group of researchers.

What are the objectives/ingredients of Survey paper? Provide readers with a perspective of existing work that is overall well composed, thorough and far reaching

  • All points of interest must be incorporated, which one’s ought/should think about.
  • Make beyond any doubt to cover all existing material
  • Logical structure of association among existing studies should be provided
  • Summarize each logical structure part in 5-8 papers on a specific sub-category
  • State of the craft view of all existing papers by mentioning their advantages and disadvantages with other existing papers or provide a discriminating appraisal of the work that has been carried out
  • Include your critique on the hugeness of the methodology and the results introduced in each paper
  • Include a dialog on future directions and interesting challenges in different area of that specific domain

Things to be Ponder:

  • Everything you compose in review paper must be in your words. There is a common misconception that you can use other wordings while writing a review article. You need to discuss ideas in your own words also must provide reference
  • In case there are definitions you can write then in “” and provide proper references to them.
  • All thoughts, rewards of other individuals’ words must be accurately credited in the text of the paper and in the references

How to Pick Articles to include in a review article?

When picking papers to peruse – attempt to:

  • Pick a latest review of the field so you can rapidly pick up an outline
  • Pick a paper that can provide reasonable materials and long clarification, even though they may not be cutting-edge papers sometime
  • Pick papers that are cited in references of each other in the same field, so you can compose a significant study out of them
  • Include papers from well-known Journals, conferences and workshops
  • Include “first” or “foundational” or State of the art papers in the field (as demonstrated in other existing papers
  • Include latest papers
  • Include older paper also but see they should have been having a good number of citations provided in google scholar

There are different steps to write a survey paper/review article that we will discuss below.

Title Page of Survey Paper:

The title page of survey paper should include following information.

  • The main topic of the survey or review paper
  • Survey or review keyword
  • If you are working in a group than make sure to write names of the group members with their affiliation and email addresses
  • It should cover abstract but make sure to write your abstract of minimum 150 to maximum 300 words. The abstract should provide the motivation or need for writing a survey and key contributions of your survey paper
  • Three to six keywords which are related to core material of that survey


Your introduction should explain about the background and motivation why you selected the certain topic. Afterwards, summarize your research domain in a precise manner. then summary of existing proposed approaches to the problem and conclude the results. You should discuss the limitation of any existing survey article on same or similar kind of topic to show the need of your survey article. Then you should provide 3-5 key contributions of your work. It’s also good to provide a diagram to show the flow of research in the topic discussed in the survey article, preferably a chronological pictorial representation of the methods or approaches with respect to some logical categorization (See example Make sure not to forget any step in the introduction while writing review or survey paper.

Concepts and Terminologies:

Survey paper is like a small book on a specific topic and you want the reader to read it and get all the things are one place just like a big shopping mall. So you should provide the key concepts and terminologies related to the topic of the survey. Example of this is provided on link below.

Methods or Approaches:

This is very important part of your review article. You need to categorize existing papers and then create a logical flow in each category. You must discuss the main idea, proposed method, data sets, data variables, results, findings and limitations of each method or group of methods. You can do this for each paper individually or for group of similar methods also. One of very important thing is to provide summary tables for each category. Only writing summary of methods in paragraphs is nothing which is useful or will convince the reviewer to accept your paper at a high-quality journal, conference or workshop. Make sure to explain your body work (whole method, process) in a vivid and clear manner that anyone can understand later on. You can also add about your personal experience while working on your selected approaches, it’s totally up to you. A very nice example can be seen in the following paper.

Datasets and Performance Measures:

This section provides the datasets used in that specific research domain. A summary statistic of each dataset can be of great importance to make it useful for readers. Performance measurement of testing of any proposed framework / method / technique /approach is a must in most of the papers. There are different performance evaluation methods adopted for different solutions. Providing the topic specific performance measures can be a very nice addition to a survey paper. (See example in the following paper

Future Challenges and Directions:

This part of survey paper is hear of the paper. The limitations are identified by different papers for other paper or even by themselves. They are usually stated in the literature review or papers or in the conclusions and future directions part. It’s a must to provide several challenging future directions based on the limitations in existing papers. Its good to make subheadings in this section with each subheading for a specific limitation. Its also important to provide the references to the papers who provided this limitation. In case the limitations if provided by you then there is no need to give any reference but that is a rare case in most of the survey articles. The future directions should be useful and clear. Let us say you want to work on that area then you should be the first person to select one of the future direction from your own written survey and then providing the solution for that specific challenge or limitation. A review article without clear future challenges can not be published at high quality venue and is only suitable for dustbin, harsh but you know truth always hurts. (See example survey paper for writing future challenges and directions


Explain what you can conclude from your research but keep it precise. Based on the sections you have written so far tell the reader what can you conclude for the summary tables you have made. Also give few tips for other researchers that can help them in future. Conclusion should not be more than one or two paragraphs.

References: Make sure to list out all the sources in the reference section of your review paper. Finally, citing references in the text should be done carefully. Avoid adding unknown papers, old but less cited papers, false and fake references in your survey paper because it can demolish your whole effort easily. Remember, a good survey paper written on a mature research area should have atleast 50 references, although a survey paper written on new or emerging topic can be with less than 50 references.  Rules for Citing a Reference are as follows.

  • Cite the entire information about paper, such as
    • All authors name
    • Title of Paper
    • Details about Paper, such as, journal (name, volume, issue, pages), conference (name, pages), workshop (name, pages)
    • Year of publishing, etc.
    • In case you provide a web URL in reference in brackets provide its visiting date also.

Keep in mind you must sometime follow specific referencing style depending upon the venue or publisher requirement, but still you will need to provide complete details as above in that format.

Please keep in mind that steps to write a survey paper/review article are completely different form writing a research paper/article which is not a survey/review. Steps to write a survey paper/review article are provided in detail as well the necessary information related to it. In case you have some tips to further improve the survey paper, please do share with us. As scientific process of doing research can vary a bit for different domains so its really nice if other researchers can benefit from your experiences.