It is clear how a conclusion is necessary for an original research article as it summarized the main aspects of the procedure, experimental results, or inferences drawn from the results. But in a survey or review paper, is it necessary?

From the many survey papers I've read, not all of it include an explicit Conclusion section. Some very good surveys and reviews do end with Furture, others with Open problems. It can be noticed that the people who differ from the norm do seem to be have established reputation in their field.

Provided the paper includes a detailed Discussion section, just how necessary is it to have a Conclusion section in a survey/review paper from the viewpoint of a reviewer (not as a reader)?

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    You seem to answer your own question..."Some very good surveys and reviews [...]"
    – Emilie
    Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 13:02
  • That's the point, @Emilie. Those surveys are written by big shots at the field and are not blind reviewed. For all we know they could be setting up their own trend. How would bureaucratic reviewers view this when the author is not well known?
    – Ébe Isaac
    Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 18:15
  • 3
    To my knowledge, in my field, review papers, even by big shots, are reviewed. And who are bureaucratic reviewers? Reviewers are peers, and could even be one of those big shots!
    – Emilie
    Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 19:13
  • 1
    @Emilie: To clarify my point, of course they are reviewed but not blind reviewed. By bureaucratic reviewers, I mean those who have a strict conception on the outline and structure of an article in addition to the information supplied within it.
    – Ébe Isaac
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 3:57

2 Answers 2


A good review article makes part of its contribution by doing synthesis, even theory building, as part of the paper. So I would expect you to summarise that contribution. If you don't like calling that a Conclusion, you can call it a Summary. But you should expect a reader to learn something from any article you write; a review just relies almost exclusively on other writers for evidence, instead of just mostly like in the case of ordinary science.


There are at least three aspects to your questions, which I will address distinctly:

  • Does a literature review article need an explicit conclusion session? Yes, it does. A conclusion section should be present in most scholarly works (at least in the social sciences, with which I am familiar), including literature reviews. Particularly for a literature review article, the conclusion should include:
    • A summary of the contents entire article
    • Focused highlights of the most important contributions of the article
    • Limitations of the article (not necessarily weaknesses, but also a clear statement of the boundaries of applicability or generalizability of the article, for example, this literature review covers only this subset of the literature, but not another related but distinct subset)
    • Suggested future work that could be done
    • A final rhetorical paragraph to leave the reader with something of impact
  • Why don't some literature review articles by "big shot" authors include a conclusion section? There is no general answer to that, since it is a particularity of each specific peer review process. It could be, as you seem to hint at, that because they are "big shots", the reviewers (if not blind) or editors let them get away with it, but I doubt that would be the case. The "big shot" effect might let them get away with publishing a weak article, but it wouldn't stop reviewers or editors requesting a conclusion section if they think one is needed. I doubt they would make a distinction in requesting such a section based on whether or not the author is a "big shot". Have you really systematically examined enough articles to draw a hypothesis that big shots don't have to include conclusion sections, but little shots always have to? Perhaps you only noticed that big shots get away with this because you mostly read big shots' literature reviews--I don't know; this is just a conjecture.
  • Do peer-reviewers of a literature review article require an explicit conclusion section? Again, there is no general answer to that, since it is a particularity of each specific peer review process. In my response to the question of whether it is needed, I definitely say yes, and when I review literature review articles, I would definitely request a conclusion section if it were missing. However, as you have noted, some reviewers and even some editors do not request or require this. Just because I think it is important doesn't mean that everyone also thinks so.

The bottom line: If you want to know what to do for your own manuscripts that you submit for consideration for publication, then definitely do include a conclusion (my outline above is a suggestion of what to focus on). I think it would be highly unlikely that if you include a conclusion section, anyone would ask you to remove it. I think it would be far more likely that if you do not include one, you might be asked to add one (for example, if they ask me to review it :-) ).

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    "A conclusion section should be present in any scholarly work"—this is overly general. In many fields (for example, mathematics), including a conclusion section is not standard practice (that is to say, sometimes it is present, sometimes not, at the discretion of the author and dependent on the particulars of the paper in question). Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 14:12
  • @Benedict Eastaugh Thanks for the critique; I've revised that statement to apply just to social sciences.
    – Tripartio
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 15:32

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