Currently, I am in 4th year of my Ph.D. and my area of research is very big and quite active. Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge, no one has ever written a survey paper that could summarize the important results of the last 20 years. A few survey papers that I have found till now, span a very narrow variety of results.

I have made a notebook for myself where I have written down all the major results that I have encountered through my Ph.D.. I find it very useful from time to time; for example when I write the introduction of a paper or look for an open problem in the area. I keep updating the notebook whenever any new result appears.

Right now, I have enough knowledge to write a survey paper. And, I would have to study a bit more to make it more complete. But I am finding it wasteful. I think that writing such a paper would only benefit other researchers and not me since I already have my personal notebook with me. Also, I think, I would be wasting my Ph.D. time writing a survey paper when I could be solving my own research problem.

Are there any self benefits for writing a survey paper? If so, maybe I can get the motivation to write one. Thanks!

  • Benefits for who, exactly? Yourself? Potential readers?
    – Buffy
    May 15, 2021 at 20:09
  • @Buffy Yes, benefits for myself.
    – IY2
    May 15, 2021 at 20:10
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    For yourself, it helps provide a clear picture, improve your writing skills (especially if you write with another experienced author), and gain a better appreciation of good surveys. A good survey paper is a massive effort to write, even for an experienced author. In my area, many articles are written by a 'team' of people. May 15, 2021 at 21:17
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    "I think that writing such a paper would only benefit other researchers and not me since I already have my personal notebook with me." I do not understand your reasoning. Isn't that the nature of all research publications? That is, the researchers already know the results of the research, so they do not publish to teach themselves something new--they publish to share their knowledge with others. Why would a survey paper be any different?
    – Tripartio
    May 17, 2021 at 9:45
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    I'll assume you're doing PhD work to train yourself primarily, preparing for your later career. If you're looking for worldwide recognition for a survey paper, well that's likely a mistake. But being able to organize and simplify your thoughts and perhaps add a bit of maturity to your understanding of your field, well, writing a survey paper can help a great deal in that direction. In the end it's your decision where to invest your time and energy. May 17, 2021 at 15:25

2 Answers 2


In many fields, well-executed literature surveys are widely read and widely cited because they help a lot of researchers not have to retrace the steps of the survey authors. Readers can quickly benefit from getting a big picture of the domain and then be guided into specific articles to dive into according to their specific interests. This is a very valuable kind of research contribution.

So, the primary intrinsic benefit would be that you would be providing a valuable service to your research community. By "intrinsic", I mean a benefit that is its own reward--in this case, the satisfaction of sharing helpful research.

For extrinsic benefits that would justify the time and effort (that is, indirect benefits that lead to other things that might be valuable to you), a well-executed survey article would be widely read and highly cited, so your number of citations would go up. For this reason, a highly reputed journal would like to publish such an article, since they want those high citations. High citations in reputable journals should generally be good for your career.

All that said, it would be good to talk to a more experienced researcher in your field to get their assessment of if your ideas would indeed be valuable and appreciated, since it is often difficult to assess that yourself, especially if you are a junior researcher.

  • Thanks, Tripartio. It seems that a survey paper does add to the career in a long term.
    – IY2
    May 17, 2021 at 13:29

As a publication, the result might be a minor item, but for the practice of writing clearly it might be very valuable when it comes time to write up your research, and beyond.

I'm assuming that this is in your major field, and even in a fairly small subfield. In such a case, writing up what is already known will help firm it up in your mind, and in some fields (mathematics) might lead to additional insights into the subfield and even additional research opportunities for when you finish your degree.

You are doing well, by the way, in keeping a notebook. Writing is more valuable than reading for helping your mind work retain ideas, integrating them, and extending them. An idea in your notebook isn't the same as an idea in your brain, of course.

Of course, it shouldn't be a distraction from your dissertation, and it need not be.

  • Thanks @Buffy for the answer. I agree with you. Can you please also tell if writing a survey paper be anyway helpful for career?
    – IY2
    May 15, 2021 at 20:47
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    Probably not a big factor, but if people read it you might get a reputation.
    – Buffy
    May 15, 2021 at 20:51
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    If you're going to be in an environment that "evaluates" research by counting citations, then the value of a good survey article is increased, because it's likely to get lots of citations. May 16, 2021 at 1:46

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