Suppose I'm writing a research paper on topic T.

Additionally, suppose there is a textbook or research paper on topic T that covers all the progress of the topic from its initial time to 2018 December.

Since I'm writing a paper during April 2019. Can I cite the research paper or textbook for literature from early days to 2018 December and only explicitly cite the remaining literature from January 2019 to April 2019 or do I need to also write a total literature survey for my research paper? If yes, what is the need to write again if I'm citing a credible source for literature?

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    I would say no, have they made assumptions when selecting the papers they discuss? Are those the same as the assumptions you will make? Did they ignore a crucial paper that was not relevant for them but is relevant for your direction?
    – Solar Mike
    Apr 4, 2019 at 6:25

2 Answers 2


Your intended audience should be able to read your paper without referencing other papers. So, unless your entire target audience will already have read the survey in question, you should summarize it for them. Saying "go read this survey, then come back" is a dereliction of duty. Note my reference to "your intended audience" -- a publication in Nature has a wider audience than J. of Machine Learning, and so your Nature paper must explain past work that the latter journal's readers would certainly already know about.

Further, the survey in question is unlikely to be suitable for your specific purposes. Yes, it may contain all relevant information, but it is likely addresses all the major results for the field as a whole. In contrast, your paper is offering a specific advance on a specific problem -- so, you need to explain which aspects of which results are relevant, and which avenues have not been addressed. Further, it is typical for survey to omit results that are unimportant for the field as a whole, but important for the topic of your paper.

Either way, the survey sounds like a great resource -- you should definitely cite it.


Imho there's no such thing as a "total" literature survey, a survey is a summary of the research in a particular field so there is some selection involved.

If the research paper that you're writing presents a new contribution to the field, then you should show how this particular contribution relates to previous work. This usually requires you to give some level of detail about who has done what before. You don't have to of course, but reviewers are likely to take this into account.

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