Writing a Literature Review

Writing a Literature Review

Most research projects include a literature review to determine what knowledge exists on the subject under study and to develop the theoretical framework that will be used in the study.  The literature review sets the context for the entire research project by explaining what others have found in researching the same or similar specific research questions.  Literature reviews are also done to help summarize the current state of knowledge on a topic and the current knowledge gaps up to this point.  In this format they are often published as a pure literature review within peer reviewed journals.  One example can be found here specific to the literature on psychobiography as a method, here is another example article.  Students often have a hard time writing literature reviews because it seems like a foreign way to organize information, however in a way you can equate the way that an essay is written to that of a literature review.  In an essay one will bring in numerous references within each paragraph, the same would be the case for a literature review in that literature reviews are organized thematically. NCSU has a fantastic video (https://www.lib.ncsu.edu/tutorials/litreview/) that helps explain what a literature review is an how they are written at the graduate and professional levels, I recommend taking a look as it will help give you some additional perspective on how these are written.  For some additional information on how to organize your theoretical framework into your paper, check out this USC Library guide on Theoretical Frameworks.

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A literature review begins with an introductory paragraph in which the writer frames the research topic and its significance, or the puzzle or topic area that the researcher is addressing. To do that, the writer will summarize the major relevant arguments on the research subject, highlighting the main issues and how schools of thought might differ.  If there are key terms to be defined, the writer would also do that here, if the literature review is part of a larger research paper.

The body of the literature review tells readers what others have found in their studies about your specific research question, or topic under investigation (the extent of existing knowledge on your specific research question/current state of the research on a particular topic), critiques what is right or wrong with these other studies, and discusses how the body of knowledge needs to be moved forward (and/or how the work is distinguishable from the research study you are proposing). Your review should organize material by theme or method or what makes sense for the project.

The conclusion should summarize the primary “sense of the literature”, encapsulating for the reader where the existing literature ends and if carrying out a study, where your research will start.

Assignment Instructions:

This assignment serves as a building block for your final thesis proposal.  For this literature review you need to select a substantive theory, either something that we discussed in the lesson, or something outside of the course, and focus your literature review around that theory.  Your theory selection should make sense with the research question you intend to assess within your final research proposal.  Since this is a literature review focused on a particular topic (i.e. the substantive theory) you will need to discuss the current state of the literature specific to that theory (for example, deterrence theory, social identity theory, and etc).  You’ll want to start with a discussion on the early conceptualizations of the theory and how it has developed overtime.  your conclusion should include a discussion on where the research on that theory needs to go next.  What are some questions that remain?  What new ways should it be applied?

Format: Standard academic format will suffice: 1-inch borders on all four sides, double spaced, with times new roman 12-point font. As with all academic assignments (unless otherwise specified) you must include a references section and list your references.

This literature review should include a critical review of at least 9-10 scholarly/peer-reviewed articles. 

Since multiple writing styles are in use within this course, on your title page, please note which style you are using within your assignment.  This will help me cater my comments to the style you are using.  The style you use need to be the one that is used within your program of study.

Total pages: 5 complete pages in length not including title page, or references.

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