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I am writing a review/tutorial paper in the field of computer science. Review articles in the journal where I want to publish tend to be long, with in-depth explanations. Now I'm in my third section of the article and I am not sure where to put a signpost paragraph. I can either:

  1. Start a new section with it, the rationale being that a reader gets to know what is in this section straight away.

  2. Put it after 2-3 paragraphs, so the reader gets to "taste" what the section is about and then can decide it he wants to continue reading for in-depth explanation or go to next section that might be more interesting for him. I would prefer this option, but then the signpost paragraph interrupts the flow of ideas that was started with the first paragraphs.

The journal's guide of style has nothing about signpost paragraphs. Reading other articles, I noticed both usages and would like to know what others think.

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Scientific papers are generally read differently than literature. Most people reading a scientific paper are not reading it for pleasure, but have some sort of agenda about what type of information they are attempting to extract from the paper. It is only rarely that they will want to read the whole thing, but more often are attempting to extract particular types of information, which may or may not be included in particular sections of a paper.

As such, it is generally best to start each section (even of a non-review paper) with a terse summary of the contents of the section. If you wait to put your summary further into the section, then it will simply annoy and frustrate many readers, since it will force them to read paragraphs they are not interested in before they get to the bit that tells them whether they want to read that section. Worse, many will not get there at all!

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