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Literature reviews are used across the disciplines to examine current research around an existing issue, topic, or research question. The primary critical thinking skill used in the literature review is synthesis, which is the practice of looking for patterns in different works and organizing the final product in a way that supports a conclusion about the research.
For your literature review, you will need to find five sources that discuss an issue of your choice. Please pick an issue that you actually care about and want to engage with in academic writing. Remember, this is the same issue you will explore in Essay #2 (the Problem-Solution Essay) and the oral presentation (Presentation on the Problem-Solution Essay), so choose your sources and issue carefully.
Next, begin the actual literature review. Synthesize the information into a coherent, organized, developed essay that either 1.) explains the current trends in the research, 2.) fully presents an argument at issue in the research, or 3) leads to an examination of disparities or “holes” (or unanswered questions/missing information) in the research.
For this essay you will be finding and thoroughly analyzing the articles and identifying the patterns among the chosen works (synthesizing). As noted in your text, synthesis within the context of literature review means more than writing an annotated bibliography or simply summarizing each text independently of the rest. Instead you are asked to identify the main question within the works and write an analytical argument regarding the similarities and/or differences among them or establish what needs further study. Your literature review may pick up on a key debate regarding this topic that is evident in a variety of works from different disciplines. Your literature review may also pick up on which issue regarding this topic appears to be most pertinent or significant among the disciplines.
It is important to remember that while you may insert yourself into the conversation regarding the common issue in question (among the articles) in order to gain complete understanding of the issue, you will not argue about the topic itself in your literature review. In other words, do not directly respond to or argue with the quoted and/or paraphrased material you choose to work with in the literature review. This approach is appropriate for other writing assignments, but not for this one.
The claim will focus on the textual representation of the information and it will determine how much support from each source you will need to incorporate into the essay. In other words, you must thoroughly support your claim in a focused, organized and coherent manner, but each source may not receive the same attention.
When summarizing, paraphrasing and quoting (when necessary) aspects of the text that support your claim, be sure to present the information honestly (in the context in which it was written), meaning you must not misrepresent the textual information to fit the needs of your own argument. Moreover, quotes and textual information must be incorporated smoothly into your prose and each must be thoroughly explained.
*Note: The in-text citations and works cited page for this assignment will be done in MLA format. Use the template I have posted on Blackboard>Assignments>Literature Review>MLA Template for Literature Review to help you.
1. After reading, annotating and summarizing in your own words the context of each article, you should ask yourself the following questions (adapted from the Writing Support center for the University of Toronto):
a) What is the specific thesis, problem, or research question that my literature review helps to define?
b) Am I looking at issues of theory? Methodology? Policy? Quantitative research (e.g., on the effectiveness of a new procedure)? Qualitative research (e.g., studies)?
c) What is the scope of my literature review? What types of publications am I using (e.g., journals, books, government documents)? What sub-disciplines am I working in (e.g., psychology, sociology, anthropology)?
d) How good was my information seeking? Has my search been wide enough to ensure that I have found all the relevant material? Has it been narrow enough to exclude irrelevant material? Have I found an appropriate number of sources for the length of my paper?
e) Have I critically analyzed the literature I use? Do I follow through a set of concepts and questions, comparing items to each other? Instead of just listing and summarizing items, do I asses them?
f) Will the reader find my literature review relevant, appropriate and useful?
2. With your tentative claim in mind, draft your essay.
3. Carefully polish your draft, revising and editing as necessary.
Again, this literature review will be the primary research you will use for your final Problem-Solution Essay, so make sure you do the following:
Length: 2-3 full pages