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Instructions

For your final MWA, I’d like for you to create literature review based on a topic related to your field of study. We will discuss literature reviews more in the unit. For this assignment, I want you to show that you’ve researched the greater academic conversation around your topic.

What is the “literature” in a literature review?

The “literature” is the collection of all books, journal and newspaper articles, websites, government documents, etc. you found to be relevant to your research topic.

How is a literature review different from an annotated bibliography?

A literature review is written in the style of an expository essay; it comprises an introduction, body and conclusion, and it is organized around a controlling idea or thesis. An annotated bibliography is simply an alphabetized list of sources accompanied by comments. Moreover, while a single source appears just once in an annotated bibliography, it may be referred to numerous times in a literature review, depending upon its importance in the field or relationship to other sources. Finally, a literature review includes its own in-text citations and bibliography or Works Cited list.

How is a literature review different from a traditional research paper?

A literature review may stand alone and be assigned or published as a discrete entity. Or it may constitute one section of a larger research paper or one chapter—usually the first—of a thesis. Whereas the main body of a research paper focuses on the subject of your research, the literature review focuses on your sources. Put another way, in the research paper you use expert sources to support the discussion of your thesis; in a literature review, you discuss the sources themselves.

How is a literature review structured?

Like any expository essay, a

literature review should have an introduction, body, and conclusion

.

The

introduction

should contain your research question, an explanation of its significance, and any other background information setting the context of your research.

The

body paragraphs

contain your summative, comparative, and evaluative comments on the sources you’ve found. These comments may pertain to

historical background & early research findings

recent developments

areas of controversy among experts

areas of agreement

dominant views or leading authorities

varying approaches to or perspectives on the subject

qualitative comparisons and evaluations

etc.

The

conclusion

summarizes major issues in the literature; it also establishes where your own research fits in and what directions you see for future research.

How is a literature review organized?

While covering the range of matters listed above, a literature review—like any expository essay—should still have a single organizing principle. Often the sort of thesis statement driving an argument paper is replaced by the research question, followed by a preview of the logical order the search for its answer will follow. Some common organizing principles are these:

Chronological

— “The rise in terrorist attacks over the last decade makes the question of what motivates terrorist groups especially urgent. A review of the literature of the past fifty years shows research on the motivation behind terrorist acts shifting focus from the psychological to the political and now the religious.”

Thematic

— “In order to understand terrorism, we must first understand the mind of the individual terrorist. While a review of the literature suggests some consensus among researchers regarding the psychological state of most terrorists immediately preceding the commission of a terrorist act, there appears to be little agreement regarding the psychological profile of potential terrorists.”

  
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