Sunday, September 30, 2007

"Related Work" vs "Prior Work"

(ed: As deadlines draw near, I get increasingly caught up with the minutiae of paper-writing. Be warned)

"Related work" or "Prior work" ? I've seen both section titles used when describing all the work that came before the magnificient specimen of research that I'm reading right now. Personally, I prefer 'Prior work': it seems somehow closer to the spirit of 'I stand on the shoulders of giants', even if that was really just a dig at Hooke. 'Related Work' to me has the tone of a grudging 'yeah yeah, these guys did something that might vaguely resemble what we do here, and I guess I should include it, but don't imagine that their work in any way influences my brilliant thoughts, which are sui generis'.

An issue that appears to be related to this is the placement of the Related/Prior Work section. I personally prefer to have prior work discussions just after the introduction, unless discussing prior work requires the use of notation that I introduce in a definitions section. In many papers (and some of mine as well), the prior work gets shunted off to the no-man's land before the conclusions. I wonder if there's some correlation between the choice of the title, 'Related Work' and the banishing of the section to the very end, a kind of double dismissal of the value of the cited works.

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