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When writing a paper it is important to discuss related work. I am working on a problem where two research fields meet. When I did a literature review I noticed that related papers often omit important information or write important information ambiguously. I can understand that this is a problem where two research field meet and that there are two sides of the problem. I believe that in most of these papers relevant information is only given for research field "A" but not "B". Nevertheless methods from research field "B" are used for which the information is not (clearly) given and thus I would never be able to reproduce the results. Therefore when writing my related literature section I was wondering if it is acceptable if I mention these problems for the papers I discuss ?

To be clear, this is not about confidential information, so the authors always choose to do it this way, or are not aware of what they are doing.

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Think about relevance to your results

Is the particular criticism relevant to the point of your paper ?

For example "The method described in paper X works only in dry conditions, so for researching dolphin behavior it's not useful and we used a different approach described in chapter 4" is a relevant criticism and should be included.

"Paper X is a very poor and ambiguous description of the method using obsolete terminology, I had to read it five times and refer to a Klingon-English dictionary before understanding how it works" is not relevant, as most likely none of your conclusions would be based on such a sentence. It would be relevant only if your paper is a meta-study on the readability of scientific articles, or if your paper is about historical changes in commonly used terminology in your subfield, where the faults of other papers is the topic of your research.

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It is more strategic (for your career) to say what they did and then talk about how other work expanded on that, rather than focus on what they didn't or failed to do. You never know when someone from that field will end up reviewing your work.

For example, you can say "Decades of work from B has implicated the involvement of X in Y. Research from A further suggests that the influence of X on Y is mediated by Z. However, many questions about the underlying mechanisms remain unresolved."

That way, you hint that although the work from B is extensive, it is not conclusive.

  • Yes. This is a great way of pointing out the "research gap" that you are addressing. – cactus_pardner Apr 2 '18 at 18:16

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