It's known that high quality survey papers will direct the community attention towards the author(s). Knowing that, I faced with an important questions on writing such articles. Can such papers be considered as counter-measures for the authors? Specifically, for a graduated student who want to apply for a PhD program, having several survey and literature review papers is a good sign of being a professional researcher in the field (of interest) or it won't be considered a major prominence for him.

I think such a situation can be regarded as a distinguishing criteria for a pre-PhD student because he could conduct such deep study in a specific field.

Am I right?

  • 3
    I'm not sure that I agree that survey/review papers direct attention to the authors - good survey/review papers direct attention to the field. Further, I'm interpreting 'papers' here as journal articles, and it would be unlikely for a pre-PhD student to have several published review articles.
    – Jon Custer
    Jul 10, 2018 at 15:19
  • @JonCuster, Why it's unlikely?
    – Eilia
    Jul 10, 2018 at 15:48
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    Because, typically, journals will either request a review paper on a specific topic from somebody well known in the field, or somebody well known in the field will propose a review paper to the journal and the journal will accept the proposal. Technical journals generally aren't going to accept a review paper from some 'random' person, and are highly unlikely to accept a review from somebody who has not published in the field.
    – Jon Custer
    Jul 10, 2018 at 15:58
  • @JonCuster, I heard such criteria for survey papers previously and some of the highly-esteemed journals in CS follow this way. However, in the domain, one can witness many quality review papers by 'random' persons who are newcomers in the field. As I know, in CS, the quality of papers are most important than quality of authors. Anyway, thanks for your comment!
    – Eilia
    Jul 10, 2018 at 16:02
  • To help answer your question, have you published any articles in a respected conference or journal in your field? (Computer science is unusual in that many conferences are more highly regarded than many journals; in most other fields that I know of, journals are always more highly regarded.) I'm asking this question because, as a pre-PhD student, I'm not sure how aware you are of the difficulty involved in publishing in a highly respected publication outlet. Also, are you talking of publishing alone or together with an experienced researcher?
    – Tripartio
    Jul 10, 2018 at 20:02

1 Answer 1


It would depend, of course, on your aims and purposes. Academia generally rewards specialization over generalization. Doctoral Research, in particular takes you deep into the weeds of a normally quite narrow topic.

Survey papers, on the other hand, are evidence of generalization, though within a single field, usually. They demonstrate breadth, not depth. (See note at end)

Educators (as opposed to researchers) on the other hand value breadth, quite a lot. Most academic positions combine teaching and research, of course.

If you are wanting to apply to a PhD program, or for a research position, I think your deep and narrow papers will serve you well. If you are wanting to apply for a teaching (primarily) position, then breadth will be an asset.

In industry, on the other hand, the evaluations will be quite different. If you are hired to solve a particular problem, then the evaluation will be biased, at least a bit, on how quickly you can be productive (i.e. narrow and deep). But for a management position at the same firm, a wider and more comprehensive view is usually valued.

My advice to students is to study a lot of things broadly and a few things deeply. This seems (to me) to be a good balance.

I think, however, you are asking the question as a person who wants to enter a doctoral program. Unless you already find one tailored to your narrow interest, you will be well served if you are seen as someone who can relatively quickly move into a variety of research areas. It gives you a better choice of advisors than if you have already narrowed your interest.

Note that I interpret "survey" to mean a fairly wide net. It is also possible to "survey" a very narrow spectrum. In some sense the list of references in a dissertation form a survey of a narrow field. If that narrow view is what you actually intend, my answer might be quite different.

  • (+1) Thanks for your thorough answer. I think I find out what I'm looking for:)
    – Eilia
    Jul 10, 2018 at 15:55

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