I have been struggling with finding the right title for a section in a scientific paper (in computer science but I think it can apply to many other fields). I know it's not the first time I encounter this problem, so I guess it's worth asking the question.

For now the outline of the paper resembles something like this:

  • Introduction: where I describe the problem and the outline of the paper
  • Background/Related work: where I describe what the state-of-the art is in the field
  • Big picture: where I describe where we want to go and how we will go there from a high level standpoint (more detailed than the intro, but less detailed than what follows)
  • [... Implementation ... Technical Details ... Application ... etc]: the body of the article
  • Conclusion

I'm struggling with the title of the third part Big picture. I want a title that conveys the idea of a high level description of what will follow so that the reader does not get lost in the technical details and keep in mind what the general plan is. Things I had in mind so far: big picture description, methodology, strategy, overview, plan of attack, ... However, none of these section title conveys exactly what I want.

Is there a common practice for the title of such a section of a paper?

What could be a good fit?

  • Check on the formatting for journals you may want to submit to... they may designate certain sections to be present and give you less freedom than you would have in a more free-form venue. In any case, in my field what you describe as "big picture" sounds like introduction to me. It's typical to find something like a big picture summary of the approach as the last paragraph of the introduction, where the rest of the introduction is background/related work. In any event, it's typically better to follow conventions you see in published work in your field rather than reinvent the wheel.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jul 2 '19 at 15:01
  • 2
    I think "Big picture" is fine. Personally, I'd also like to read "Plan of attack" :D Jul 2 '19 at 20:15

In my research area (software engineering), a widely used name for this section would be Overview.


I've used headings like "General Formalism" myself (not in CS), before turning to detailed examples. I think I've seen "General Approach" too, which seems close to what you want. In any case, "General X" is a useful construction, signifying a treatment of X on a higher level than will follow, yet still in more detail than in the introduction.


In this paper (received best paper award at at top conference) https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2462179, such a section is called "Approach at a glance"


Overview. Approach. Schematic view.

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