Print out and read the Abstract, Introduction and Related Work sections of each of the following papers:


  • What are they talking about in the related work section?
  • What are they trying to do in the related work section?
  • How are these related work sections different from one another (aside from topic)?

Set up:

  • mCommerce: What is the relationship between the introduction and related work? [actual content/ideas]
  • Family Window: What is the relationship between the introduction and related work? [actual content/ideas]


  • Summarize each paragraph in a sentence: what are they saying?
  • Look at each subsection: what are they trying to do here? How are they doing it?
  • How do they treat each individual piece of literature?
  • How do they treat each individual idea?

++ How do they talk about what they plan on doing?


What is the purpose of a related work section?

  • Show you are knowledgeable [about the area, and what influences you]
  • Provide a reader with sufficient understanding of the problem/solution space to interpret the rest of your work
  • Shows how others have tackled similar problems; may show how others have applied a similar approach
  • Shows things that are in a related space
  • Provides a synthesis of literature -- a new framework for interpreting and understanding others' work

Types Literature Reviews (increasing sophistication)

  • annotated bibliography
  • by summaries of project/paper
  • by history [hard if field is old]
  • by concepts and ideas

Ways things are linked

  • Addressing a similar problem
  • Used a similar approach
  • Comparative based on the obvious question
  • Comparative based on a question that you derive later (secondary use)

Common Mistakes

  • Too little / much
  • Aimless -- what is absolutely important for the reader to really know, otherwise they would either (a) be completely lost, or (b) think you don't know what you're talking about
  • Avoids synthesis -- doesn't tell us anything aside from a brief summary of each paper

Strategy 1: Deep Method

  • Problem, approach, lessons, evaluation, contribution for each paper (5 sentences)
  • Determine what ideas/themes relate based on these summaries

Strategy 2: Outcomes-based Method

  • Write two sentences for each paper that you have read -- what are the lessons from that work, how is the system/study different from your own; don't group them
  • Group things according to similar topics