Re: Graduate survey papers published?

Jim Whitehead (
Wed, 18 Jun 1997 11:50:22 -0700

At 9:07 PM 6/17/97, I Find Karma wrote:
>[from a Red Rock Eater post]
>> From Tue Jun 17 20:01:50 1997
>> Subject: notes
>> ...

>> That's a painful transition, and good graduate schools try to smooth it.
>> One common part of this transition is making the students write a survey
>> paper: a paper that summarizes and interrelates "the literature" -- all
>> of the work that has previously been written on some topic. It's a great
>> exercise because you're both contributing to scholarship and mapping out
>> the intellectual territory in which you're planning to locate yourself.
>Wait, *everyone* cannot write survey papers. There aren't enough

I disagree. Most areas in which I've performed research suffer from a lack
of good surveys, rather than a surfeit.

>> Unforunately, in the paper-based system we have now they mostly just
>> get filed away. I think we should put them all on the Internet.
>I think he's nuts. Most survey papers I've read have been awful.

Must be a CalTech phenomenon :-), most of the ones I've read have been very

>> Or we could follow the technical fields and use LaTeX and
>> postscript, with automatic (and hopefully much improved) HTML generators
>> for online viewing.
>This idea is really batty. Why should we trust graduate students to
>write authoritative surveys on anything???

Um, because nobody else has enough free time?

>> Each survey paper would go through a formalized refereeing process. For
>> example, the paper could be made available in draft form to the author's
>> local research group first, then to a specified broader circle of friends,
>> and then finally to public comment.
>Yo buddy, I have enough trouble getting comments out of people under the
>current circumstances. If people are continually having to read survey
>papers too I will never get a free moment of their time.

Agreed. Just make sure their advisor has read it, then put them out as-is.
You'll quickly discover which are gold, and which should be composted.

On the other hand, nobody reads ACM Computing Surveys as it is (although
every time I do read a paper from there I learn a *lot*), so I doubt others
will read these surveys much either. But, on the off chance someone has
too much time on their hands, these surveys should be more accessible.

- Jim