In academia, a survey article is a paper that is a work of synthesis, published through the usual channels (a learned journal or collective volume, such as conference proceedings or collection of essays). It stands outside the usual run of research papers, for two reasons: it is not presented as the author's original research, but as a survey or summary of a field; and it is not necessarily subject to the same degree of peer review. Sometimes short survey articles appear in the guise of book reviews, where the context of the book is summarised first, often at greater length than is devoted to the book.
In a survey article, the treatment of the subject is often less detailed or in-depth than would be acceptable in a textbook, and the topic may be one in which recent work requires summary. In its objectivity, a survey article may lie somewhere between a personal essay, and an encyclopedia article. The intention is to give rapid access to material scattered over many papers. Some fields, such as theoretical physics, depend very much on such surveys to bring recent progress into focus, on a time scale of around 18 months to two years.