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Writing Instruction Support: Literature Reviews

Lit Review Draft Assignment

Kristin Anderson’s Lit Review Assignment Sociology 306, Sociological Research Methods, adapted from an assignment by Roberta Kjesrud.

LITERATURE REVIEW DRAFT ASSIGNMENT (2%).  This short writing assignment introduces you to the characteristics of an effective literature review and walks you through some steps to assist you in synthesizing research findings in a literature review.   You will first write a draft of this assignment (worth 2% of the course grade) and then revise the draft on the basis of feedback from your instructor for resubmission.  The revised assignment will be worth 10% of the course grade.

Part 1.  Use the sociological search engine, Sociological Abstracts, to locate three empirical journal articles on topics related to your survey research project topic.     Make a bibliography using ASA style that references these three articles.

Part 2.   Use the table below to identify the patterns in previous research methods and findings across these studies.      The table below provides a way to organize your answers to four questions about the three studies.

Study 1

Study 2

Study 3

  1.  What is the parenthetical citation you would use if you wanted to reference this study in the text of your review? 

  1.  What is the primary method used in the study (survey, experiment, in-depth interview, participant observation)?

  1.  What is the sample size and type (probability or non-probability?)

  1. What are the primary findings for this study (e.g., what are the main themes for qualitative research, and what hypotheses are supported by statistical analysis in quantitative research?)

Note that this table is not part of a formal literature review. It is intended to help you identify key information that should be included in a literature review and to synthesize the literature. 

Part 3.   Write one-paragraph of a literature review that synthesizes the findings from the three studies.    Use assessment statements to frame your discussion of the literature on the topic.   Use specific details from the studies you reviewed to support your assessment statements.    Use in-text citations, in ASA style, to reference the sources used in your literature review.

Lit Review Tips

Literature Reviews: A How-To

From Prof. David Rossiter

General Aim
  • To assess the current literature on a topic
    • What’s already been said?
  • Fundamental to research
    • You need to situate your work
    • Know what is out there to draw on
    • Know what remains to be investigated
  • A literature review is an analysis of the literature on a problem, not of the problem itself
Your Topic

Two types of literature to review:

  • General to your topic
    • How has issue been studied in other contexts?
  • Specific to your topic

Some hints:

  • Both types may not be available
  • Start from general and go to specific
The Material
  • Typically academic journal articles
    • Usually specific, concise studies
    • Peer-reviewed
    • Well-referenced
  • Academic books
    • Usually more wide-ranging
    • Often requires identifying relevant part (chpt.)
  • Technical / business reports
The Paper Trail
  • It takes some time to track down literature
    • Start with database search
    • Find most recent articles (general and specific)
    • Look at references and obtain major sources
      • May point you to books, older “classics”
  • You need to make sense of your materials
  • Categorize by (will vary):
    • Place, period (general → specific)
    • Problem identification
    • Methodology
    • Conclusions
  • This is the first step of analysis
    • Precedes writing!!!
Writing the Review
Introduction (ENVS 319 = 1-2 pgs)
  • State the topic / problem
    • Overview
    • Contextualize
  • Present your categorization
    • Period, place
    • Methods
  • Offer your argument / thesis
    • Set up by first two steps
Body (ENVS 319 = 7-8 pgs)
  • Follow outline provided in introduction
    • Period / place ordering
    • Evidence typology
  • Quantitative? Qualitative? Empirical? Hermeneutic?
    • Methods categorization
  • Statistical analysis? Text analysis? Models? Experiments?
  • Work through to demonstrate your thesis
    • Build argument ‘brick by brick’
Conclusion (ENVS 319 = 1-2 pgs)
  • Summarize
    • Context
    • Categorization
  • Period / place, evidence, methods
    • Your argument
  • Answer the “so what?” question
    • Implications, why we should care