Suppose, I need to write a research proposal for a Ph.D. application, and I have limited time on my hand as the deadline is approaching very fast.

My topic is as follows:

A novel multiscale method for driving a screw using machine learning and a screw-driver.

Say, I have collected around 200 research articles from 2016 to 2022, and I made sure that each of them contains the following keywords:

  1. multiscale
  2. driving screws
  3. machine learning
  4. screw-driver

Now, among 200 articles 70 of them are surveys/reviews from 2016 to 2022.

  • Can I write my proposal only on the basis of those 70 surveys to save my time?

N.B. In the bibliography, I will not mention survey articles, but the original articles listed in the survey.


2 Answers 2


If your purpose is a research proposal for a Ph.D. application, I do not think you would be expected to carry out a comprehensive review of the research. I think that if you were to focus on the last ten surveys and maybe ten of the most recent articles from 2021-2022 that are truly pertinent, then considering your time constraints, that should be sufficient to show that you are thoughtfully aware of the most important points.


You can consult whatever you like. But note that surveys are more likely to cover only older material so you may be missing what is known at the state of the art by restricting yourself to only that.

Abstracts of more recent articles will help you fill in the gaps if there are any.

Also, what you list in the bibliography should be the papers you actually reviewed.

Moreover, how close you need to be to the state of the art will differ by location. Most entering doctoral students in the US have only an undergraduate degree and little research experience so less is expected than in, say, Germany.

  • So, can I do the opposite? i.e. exclude all surveys?
    – user366312
    Commented Jun 13, 2022 at 15:20
  • 2
    You can, of course, but why? Among other things they will point you to papers worth reading.
    – Buffy
    Commented Jun 13, 2022 at 15:30
  • Just to save some time.
    – user366312
    Commented Jun 13, 2022 at 15:51

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