Literature Review

Here are some pointers and guidelines for writing a good literature review.

map the terrain:
The idea of this paper is to map out the terrain of your topic. Though you will draw some conclusions by the end, your objective here is not personal commentary, but rather to gain an understanding of what the central issues, themes and debates are in the area of research that you have selected. With this in mind, try to suspend judgement - the goal is to understand what the writers are saying and to be able to clearly articulate their ideas.

A good lit review is NOT a summary of the sources. I don't want to see a paper made up of 8 sections summarizing your 8 sources. While doing your reading try to draw connections, identify common themes and articulate central debates in the field.

At the end of the process you can start drawing some conclusions. What questions are not answered by the literature? What arguements are weak and why? By mapping the terrain you should have a clearer sense of where your own research is going and how you can contribute to the discourse.


  • refer to at least 8 sources, 2 of which may come from class readings
  • only 3 sources may come from the Internet (the rest must come from books, scholarly articles, etc)
  • at the end of the paper should be a list of works cited
  • read Johanne Blank's Evaluating Evidence [attached] about evaluating the quality of your sources


  1. A concise and provacative title.
  2. An introductory paragraph framing your paper and indicating what you will cover.
  3. Possible main body sections may include:
    • Discuss the history and background of this topic. What are the technological/media precursors? A paper about YouTube would need to address the history of television.
    • Present any relevant stats, figures, etc. that frame the issue.
    • Discuss theories of media/culture/technology that provide a foundation for your topic - postmodernism, marxism, media convergence, film theory, etc.
    • Drawing from the readings, identify common themes that come up in different writings. Use quotes and examples to discuss the different writers ideas. For example, in the area of children and the Internet, a central issue is that of parental moderation/control of where their children can surf.
    • Articulate central debates in your field. For example some educators think that games are anathema and others think of them as innovative learning tools. What's important here is to demonstrate a clear understanding of both sides of the arguement - not weigh in with your opinion (yet).
  4. Conclusion - finally, try to assess what you've learned and what it means for your final topic. You may find that those 6 questions you created for your research proposal are not relevant and need revising. Or you may realize that you could write an entire book about just one of them. Try to identify opportunities in your topic to make a new contribution either by adding evidence to one side of a debate, or introducing new issues, etc.

quotes: introduce, claim, explain

Avoid run-on quotes!!! The effective use of quotations generally involves 3 parts:

  1. The introduction -- Quotations must be introduced. This can be as simple as saying "As X argues, "..."(page #)". It usually involves a transition that will guide the topic of discussion into the quotation and also provide the reader an indication of what he or she should be looking for while reading the quotation.

- "X" contends that ...
- As "Y" writes ...
- "Z" would respond ...
2. The quotation itself -- When quoting, especially with long quotations, the author's words should be essential to your argument and analysis.
3. The analysis --This usually has two parts. Immediately after the quotation, the writer should summarize what he or she takes the quotation to mean. After that, the author should clearly and directly relate this meaning to the argument and overall thesis.

Johanne_Blank_Evaluating_Evidence.pdf87.73 KB