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I am currently writing a paper which gives an overview over semantic segmentation. My target audience are people who are not experts, but who need semantic segmentation or who want to get into this field. The aim of the paper is to provide starting points. This means I give a very brief idea and I mention papers which introduce the idea in detail.

Should I mention my target audience / the aim of the paper in the abstract? Should it be in the introduction? Should it be in the paper at all?

Are there other ways to give readers this information (e.g. I've noticed some keywords in the titles of papers)?

  • I've certainly seen this in the abstract of surveys in math and physics, and I think it is helpful information to give, though I don't have any experience with your field. – Kimball Jan 21 '16 at 14:20
  • @Kimball Could you tell me one publicly available paper so that I can have a look how to formulate this? – Martin Thoma Jan 21 '16 at 14:23
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    Here are a couple that I could quickly find: arxiv.org/abs/0908.3347 and arxiv.org/abs/0907.4046 (the latter one states the intended audience in the title!) – Kimball Jan 21 '16 at 16:10
  • I have seen surveys without abstracts but instead with introductions (e.g. people.math.gatech.edu/~etnyre/preprints/papers/legsur.pdf). I think typically the abstracts/introductions of these kind of works (in my field pure mathematics) almost always have some language suggesting the necessary background required to read the work and read similarly to the foreward of lecture notes/books. – PVAL Jan 22 '16 at 1:47
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Should I mention my target audience / the aim of the paper in the abstract? Should it be in the introduction? Should it be in the paper at all?

In my experience you should mention the target audience / the aim of the paper in the both the abstract and the introduction, if possible. If you have to go with one of the two then mention it in the introduction, probably in the penultimate paragraph, where you move from explaining what has been done before to explaining what the paper will do.

I think that mentioning the the target audience / the aim of the paper is important as papers are often rejected due to misunderstandings, for instance where they are directed at practitioners, but evaluated by reviewers based on other "quality" criteria. Accordingly, you should be very careful to set up the criteria that you want to be evaluated on. As one academic in my field once told me "you need to be very clear about the stick you want them to beat you with".

There are different ways you can do this sort of subtle scoping and expectation setting. It really depends on the field and venue you are targeting. Sometimes you can just start with "The paper aims to...". If that is too clunky, or you need to state things more subtly, you could use something like:

  1. To address the research gaps previously outlined (e.g., x,y,z), this paper therefore aims to...
  2. "As the aim of the paper is to provide a foundation overview of..., it mimics prior exemplars in this area (e.g., x) to (do) x, y and z".

The benefit of doing something like the second one is that the linking to templates will let reviewers (not all of whom may understand your type of intended contribution) see that it i) has been done before (which reviewers often value), and ii) give them something to compare your paper against to determine its quality.

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What you are describing is called Review Article (sometimes: survey article) and a common type of publication. This keyword should suffice to find some similar papers from your field. There is also a tag on this site.

Some journals go one step further and distinguish between regular reviews for readers who want to update their knowledge on a given field and introductory reviews for readers who wish to learn about a field from scratch. The latter can have all sorts of names.

Having your review labeled review article (or similar) should suffice to clarify the nature of the article for most readers. Additionally your abstract will not contain key phrases such as we study or we find, but rather we review or we give an overview. If your paper is aimed at a specific group of newcomers (e.g., semantic segmentation from a physicist’s point of view), then it may be indeed worth mentioning them in the abstract.

Note that some journals do not accept unsolicited review articles for peer review, but ask you to discuss your plans before you start writing. If you have a special target audience, you should discuss this with the journal at this point.

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