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Literature Review Guidelines

The Portfolio part of the Ph.D. degree requires that each student write a literature review (as described here. This document provides broad guidelines for writing the literature review.

A literature review is a self-contained document that is focused on a particular area of Computer Science research, and that is targeted to Computer Science researchers that are not expert in the particular area of focus. After reading the literature review, the audience should feel like they can engage in an informed and intelligent conversation about the focus area.

The literature review should address the following points:

  • Why is the focus area interesting?
  • What are the challenges and the key research questions?
  • What are the known approaches results, their strengths and their weaknesses?
  • What are important open research questions?

A key aspect of the literature review is that it should not be merely an enumeration of previous work. It should have, either interspersed throughout or as a last section, a discussion with your own thoughts. Such thoughts could be your own evaluation of the merits/drawbacks of proposed approach beyond those already identified in the literature. Also, a good literature review almost always includes a well-argued discussion of promising research directions for future work in the area.

The literature review is not a Ph.D. dissertation proposal. The literature review should be written objectively, unbiased by your own work in the area, if any. You do not have to justify the relevance of your own work and its promises in this document. However, this type of justification is mandatory in the Ph.D. proposal document and defense.

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