I am writing the "Prior Works" section of my M.Sc. thesis. In different papers I saw that there are different notations for fairly similar concepts. Should I describe each prior work with its original notation which helps people to refer to the original works without confusion or is it better to unify the notation across all of the prior works to make the thesis easier to read.

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    There's no universal right answer, but I usually err on the side of making my paper more readable. When the notation change from the prior work is drastic, it's fine to make a parenthetical comment that U is referred to as f in the other paper (for example).
    – user37208
    Jan 15, 2016 at 22:01

1 Answer 1


In my PhD thesis I had a largeish section in the "state of the art" chapter discussing the wildly different conventions, definitions, and notation of previous work in the area, and setting up a common language for comparing them (and later for the main work).

In the resulting papers I just defined the terms, and paraphrased earlier work in them as required.

So, it really depends. In your thesis you do have the space available to make it absolutely clear, in papers/conferences space is at a premium.

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