I would like to clarify a writing style issue concerning separating related work from my own work:

Does the related work section need to be strictly about other work only? Or may you also explicitly explain the relevance of the related work to the text at hand?

That is, should you avoid explaining why a given related paper is related to your work and just report on the paper itself, or is it okay to also explain, WHY that paper is relevant while you talk about it? For example

Related work

[...] Someone et al. (2010) report that "X -> Y". Someoneelse (2011) however found evidence for "not X -> Y". It is not entirely obvious where this difference in findings results from. That is why I study "X" in regard to its influence on "Y" in more detail in this thesis. [...]

A version of this statement would also find itself in the introduction and possible the abstract, but imagine there to be more surrounding explanation in the related work section.

Is that permissible writing style? Or is the That is why I study "X" in regard to its influence on "Y" in more detail in this thesis. part out-of-place in the related work section?

2 Answers 2


The objective of related works is to, well, show how other work is related to yours. It’s not only reasonable, but also expected that you say how other works are positioned with respect to yours. When I read the related work section I also want to understand exactly that “why” of relatedness. Doing so explicitly would really help your readers.


Previous work related to this paper

Usually in papers discussion of related work comes after you have introduced the context of the problem and defined some bounds of it, so in many cases it's obvious how and why it's relevant - but if it isn't, then you definitely should explain the relevance. However, it's not the place for in-depth comparison; if your paper proposes some novel method that should be compared with earlier work by Smith et al, then in 'related work' you introduce Smith's work; then you have chapter(s) talking about your method in detail, and only then (IMHO) you can properly compare and contrast the methods.

Your previous work counts as well

It's worth noting that your own previous papers are likely to be in the 'related work' section. In "related work" you describe the state of art in the field before this paper, not before you first became a researcher; and it's plausible that a proper description of the state of art in your subfield includes some of your earlier papers.

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