Preparing A Literature Review

Literature reviews are articles that provide a clear, up-to-date account of the topic and are aimed at non-specialists from all over the world. They should be in the region of 2000-4000 words in length excluding text in boxes, figure legends and references. 

A literature review should include a broad update of current research developments related to the topic under review (from the past 3 to 4 years) and their likely clinical applications. 

It may be helpful to consult previous editions of the TSMJ or other publications to familiarise yourself with the structure/content of a review article. 

Below is a basic outline of the structure of a literature review: 


  • The title should be clear, concise, and informative - the reader should have an idea of what the review is about. o abbreviations are used in the title. 
  • You may wish to create a "catchy" title to capture the attention of the reader - the decision to read an article often rests on the appeal of its title. However, it should contain key words related to the content of the review. 


      • Designation, degree, affiliation and address of all authors are to be clearly indicated, with additional details such as telephone number and/or email address of the corresponding author. 


      • Cover each and every component of the review in no more than 200 words. 
      • State the purpose of the review, an overview of the subsequent sections, the principal conclusion and implications
      • Should contain precise information and no abbreviations. 


      • Should be 100-200 words
      • Explain what the review is about, why it is important to non-specialists and what will be covered in the subsequent sections. 
      • Answer the question "Why should I read this review?" as posed by a non-specialist in the area.
      • Include literature to introduce and support your points.

The Body of the Review

      • The body of the text should be broken up under "read-friendly" sub-heading.
      • Subheading may be present in the form of questions. (Example: "Who gets it?" "How is it diagnosed?" "What new treatments can we expect?")
      • Specialists terminology should be explained, all abbreviations and acronyms written in full
      • Clarify the evidence on which the key statements in the review are based, and the strength of the evidence (published trials, systematic reviews, and observational studies, expert opinion) throughout the paper 
      • Where evidence is lacking or is of poor quality we expect you to say so
      • Remember that any advice on managing patients may not apply worldwide - clarify if your advice is country-specific. 

        Note: We expect to find sentences structured in the following ways: 
        " A large, well conducted randomised trial found that..." 
        "The findings of a small case series suggest...". and so on.

Conclusion/Concluding Remarks

      • This section should be short and briefly summarise the review. 
      • Come to conclusions about the topic of interest. 
      • Look to the future in the area of interest. 
      • do NOT introduce any new information here


      • Can be clinical photographs, line drawings, and flow charts. 
      • Remember that we need informed consent from patients for any material you obtain from patients (including X-rays, histology slides, and so on). 


      • See our Template for an example of the recommended format for manuscripts.

Figures and Tables

      • We highly encourage the inclusion of figures, photos, illustrations and tables.
      • Please ensure they are fully labelled with accompanying legends at the end of the manuscript after the references section.


References should be in Vancouver style and in-text numerical citations should be before full-stops.

An example of a Vancouver style reference is as follows:

Van Eeden SF, Hiraiwa K, Elliott M, Hogg JC. D37 HELP: ADVANCES IN COPD THERAPEUTICS: Effect Of Statins On The Retention Of Ambient Particulate Matters (pm) In COPD. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. 2015;191:1.

References in this style can be found by clicking on the ‘cite’ button under the article you wish to reference on the search results page on Google Scholar, or by using the relevant style options (Citing Medicine, Vancouver) in citation management plug-ins/applications.


This section is to acknowledge the work of anyone who contributed with the research but who is not listed as an author. This section comes after the conclusion.

Conflict of Interest Statement

We request that all authors declare whether there are any personal or financial or other factors that may have influenced their work. If there are no such factors, then please declare no conflicting interests after the acknowledgements section and before the references.

Publishing Agreement and Patient Confidentiality

A publishing agreement must be signed and completed by all authors as well as a declaration that informed consent was gained for any patient cases and for all materials that may allow for patient identification. The documents can be downloaded here: Publishing Agreement and Patient Consent Form.