A young researcher's guide to perspective, commentary, and opinion articles
Perspective, opinion, and commentary articles are scholarly articles which express a personal opinion or a new perspective about existing research on a particular topic. These do not require original research, and are, therefore, less time-consuming than original research articles. However, the author needs to have in-depth knowledge of the topic.
Since perspective, opinion, and commentary articles do not involve original research, they are considered as secondary literature. However, they are definitely an immense value-addition to the existing plethora of scientific literature.
Perspectives present a new and unique viewpoint on existing problems, fundamental concepts, or prevalent notions on a specific topic, propose and support a new hypothesis, or discuss the implications of a newly implemented innovation. Perspective pieces may focus on current advances and future directions on a topic, and may include original data as well as personal opinion.
These are usually short peer-reviewed articles of around 2000-3000 words. A perspective article usually includes a short abstract of around 150 words and a few tables and figures, if required.
Opinion articles present the author’s viewpoint on the strengths and weaknesses of a hypothesis or scientific theory. Opinion articles are generally based on constructive criticism and should be backed by evidence. However, opinion articles do not contain unpublished or original data. These articles promote scientific discourse that challenges the current state of knowledge in a particular field.
Opinion pieces are also relatively short articles, of around 2000-2500 words, typically with a short abstract of about 150 words, at least five references, and one or two figures or tables.
Commentaries draw attention to or present criticism on a previously published article, book, or report, often using the findings as a call to action or to highlight a few points of wider relevance to the field. Commentaries do not include original data and are heavily dependent on the author’s perspective or anecdotal evidence from the author’s personal experience to support the argument.
Commentaries are usually very short articles, of around 1000-1500 words, and are in most cases invited by Editors from reviewers or experts in the field. They include a few references, and one or two tables and figures. Some journals require abstracts for commentaries, while others do not. The desired word count for these articles is also journal-specific. Authors should, therefore, read the guidelines provided by the journal carefully before they begin writing.
Why write a perspective, commentary, or opinion piece rather than an original research article?
Authors usually consider writing a perspective, commentary, or opinion article when:
- Research has been done, but the data are preliminary, not very significant, or not strong enough to convey the author’s message.
- The topic is of broad concern to a wider audience or to the scholarly community in general.
- The author wishes to present opinions and ideas or describe an innovation that has not yet been implemented.
Preparing to write
- Decide the most suitable type of article for the message you wish to convey whether you are writing a scholarly article, describing an innovation, or offering your opinions or ideas in a perspective.
- Gather information to support your thesis.
- Ensure you have received approval or an exemption from your institutional review board if human subjects are involved.
- Organize your content, noting down supporting evidence or logical reasoning for each point in the argument.
Structure of a perspective, opinion, or commentary article
A perspective, opinion, or commentary is based on ideas, opinions, and insights, and hence does not follow a strict structure like the IMRaD. As long as the ideas flow logically, the author is free to structure the article as he feels. Broadly, these articles have an introduction, a few body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
Abstract: While each journal has its own set of specifications for the abstract, these articles usually require short, unstructured abstracts. For most journals, a perspective, commentary, or opinion piece would call for an abstract of about 150 words. However, some journals specifically mention that abstracts are not required. If nothing is mentioned, it is best to provide a brief abstract of 150 words or fewer.
Introduction: The introduction provides background information and usually includes a brief review of the literature. The thesis or statement of purpose is presented towards the end of the introduction.
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Body: The body comprises several coherent paragraphs. Each paragraph supports the thesis statement and builds on the previous paragraph. The logical flow of the argument is of utmost importance in a perspective, opinion, or commentary article. The author should ensure that each paragraph flows smoothly into the next. Paragraph headings may be added if required.
Conclusion: The conclusion summarizes the arguments provided in the body paragraphs and supports the thesis. Implications of the proposed ideas or opinions are discussed, future directions for research are proposed, and drawbacks or limitations are mentioned.
Journal selection and submission
Perspectives, opinions and commentaries are generally peer reviewed. Hence, authors should select a few target journals in advance to ensure that in case the paper is rejected by one journal, it can be sent to the next without further loss of time. Authors should also keep in mind that some journals publish these articles by invitation only, and it is best to send a pre-submission inquiry to journals that state that they do not accept unsolicited submissions.
Every journal has specific requirements of word limit, abstract, headings, tables and figures, number of references, etc. for each article type. It is very important to go through the author guidelines carefully and ensure that all these requirements have been met before submission. If the journal requires a particular style of formatting, it is best to strictly follow the prescribed format.
If you have any doubts or questions, you can post them in the comments section below. Alternatively, you can also post a question on our Q&A forum if you are facing a problem and need expert publication advice.