I'm a new PhD student, wrapping up my first year of coursework. To date, I haven't published any papers, and my body of work is essentially null. For this semester's class project in one of my courses, my professor has tasked me with using the IEEE format for papers and using the following sections to describe my project:

  1. Introduction
  2. Related work
  3. Proposed method
  4. Experiment result
  5. Conclusion
  6. References

He seems very enthusiastic about the project that I coded, and the notion seems to be that he wants to send the paper off to a summer conference. I know this must be a growing pain as a young academic, resulting from lack of experience. How do I go about composing a Related Work section? Is it as simple as rummaging through conference papers published in my field on related topics? Do I need to look through the ACM and IEEE databases for articles that relate to my work? I certainly don't have anything that I've previously written/published to put in this section; any advice from someone with more experience would be immensely appreciated!

  • 5
    I suggest finding related papers on google scholar. They will all have a related work section. See what they do and follow that. – mikeazo May 4 '16 at 2:33

The problem here is likely deeper than just how to write a related work section. In order to publish a (good) scientific paper, you need to be able to compare your results to prior results---often directly and quantitatively in your experimental section.

If you already have prior methods that you are comparing to in your experimental section, then that's a good seed for your related work. Look at the papers describing those methods; look at papers that they cite and papers that cite them. By spending a few days wandering around in this web of literature, you are likely to be able to get a good sense of what else is out there and which of those pieces of work are most significant overall or most closely related to your own.

If you don't have prior methods that you are comparing to, then you need to sit down with your professor and get some help. If you aren't comparing in some way, how can you establish that your work is a significant improvement worth publication?

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In the Related Works section, you should discuss briefly about published matter that technically relates to your proposed work.

A short summary of what you can include (but not limited to) in the Related Works section:

  • Work that proposes a different method to solve the same problem.
  • Work that uses the same proposed method to solve a different problem.
  • A method that is similar to your method that solves a relatively similar problem.
  • A discussion of a set of related problems that covers your problem domain.
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