Literature Review Assignment

                                                                                                                                Social Research

Literature Review Assignment Instructions

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For this assignment, students will draft a literature review on a topic of their choosing. Each student will write two drafts of the literature review prior to submission of the final paper.


  1. First Draft Literature Review: For the first draft, students will write one section (i.e., a subtopic or theme) of a literature review utilizing a minimum of three peer-reviewed empirical research articles. This assignment is worth 30 points (see rubric below).
  2. Second Draft of Literature Review: The second draft will have a minimum of two sections section (i.e., a subtopics or themes) utilizing a minimum of six peer-reviewed empirical research articles. The second draft will undergo an in-class review by a peer during the Fall semester.
  3. Final Literature Review: The final draft of the paper will be due during Week 12 of the Fall semester. At least six journal articles related to your research question or topic are to be used. This assignment is worth TBD points (see rubric below).


Articles are to be research articles published in 2009 or later and come from scholarly academic journals.  Articles that are not empirical research articles from peer-reviewed journals will not receive any points.


Paper Format: The paper must be typed with double-spaced pages, 1-inch margins, and 12-point Times New Roman font:

  • The draft literature review should be approximately 1-2 double spaced pages.
  • The final literature review should be a minimum of 3-5 pages, double spaced.

The paper should include headings and be thoroughly edited before submission. Nonprofessional internet references should ordinarily be avoided in preparing academic papers. All citations should utilize the guidelines set forth in the 7th edition of the APA Manual.







Writing the Literature Review


The literature review provides the rationale for conducting a research study. It details what is currently known about the research problem/issue that is the focus of your study, and then describes the gaps in our knowledge about this problem/issue (e.g. lack of research in a specific area or conflicting findings). Your review of research and theory is not an annotated bibliography—it is a critical review that analyzes and synthesizes what we know, how we know it (e.g. research methods used in empirical studies, practice wisdom, theoretical writings, etc), and identifies gaps in our knowledge base. This review provides the evidence to support the need for your study (e.g. to address the specific gaps in our knowledge base that are identified through a thorough and critical review of all relevant literature).


The literature review is written according to the themes the group finds in the literature.  This section provides background information and lays the groundwork for the proposed research project.  Themes may include information about the issue, population, nature and scope of the issue, main theories that may help us to understand the issue, explanations, and background knowledge that was found in the literature.  There may be a section that includes promising approaches or programs that address the issue or problem.  If there is conflicting information or debates in the literature this is included in this section.


The literature review generally contains three to five central themes or areas.  Subheadings can really help organize your thoughts to make smooth transitions between the various themes. The literature review should flow from theme to theme in a logical way.  It also condenses what other authors have found, highlights information specific to the proposed research, and lays the groundwork for the project. The writer MUST avoid summarizing individual articles; the literature review is about outlining the themes, not outlining individual articles.  The review should be in your words as much as possible, with APA citations used appropriately.


After the literature review has been written a final section or conclusion should be added that pulls as many of your themes together as possible, that summarizes the trends found in a concise manner.  Highlight contradictions, debates or uncertainties that were found in the literature.  The reader should feel that the literature review has added up to something – that a justification for the current research has been made and that the groundwork has been laid for the study.



Your literature review can follow this general outline:


Title Page

Your title should give the reader a quick and accurate picture of the topic you propose. Center and bold your title at the top of the first page of your proposal.  Put your name on the second line and the date on the third (all single-spaced and centered).



The introduction is a brief summary description of the topic of the literature review.  State your thesis and describe your topic.  Explain why it is relevant.  Should be approximately 1-2 paragraphs.


Body of the literature review

This section describes the issue/problem/topic and provides a rationale for the literature review. Use only peer-reviewed empirical research sources.

  • Sub-topic 1
    • What do we know about the problem/issue/topic?
    • What do we need to know (what gaps are in the research? What is lacking?)?
    • Why is it important that we know it (fill the research gap)? Why now?
  • Sub-topic 2
    • What do we know about the problem/issue/topic?
    • What do we need to know (what gaps are in the research? What is lacking?)?
    • Why is it important that we know it (fill the research gap)? Why now?


The Draft Literature review will only have 1-2 sub-topics.  The Final Literature Review will be comprised of 3-4 sub-topics.



This section summarizes the key-points of the review.  Briefly re-state any agreements and/or disagreements from the literature. Provide your general conclusions.






Here are some general tips for writing your literature review:


  1. Have you (re)stated the purpose of your study? Have you established the importance of your topic?  Have you discussed the relevance to the agency, program, clients served, etc.?
  2. Discussion of the themes from at least
    1. Three journal articles on your topic plus additional resources for the draft.
    2. Ten journal articles on your topic plus additional resources for the final assignment.
  3. Organization of the literature into themes. What are the 3-5 central ideas you are discussing?
  4. Clear transitions between paragraphs; or, use of subheadings for each section.
  5. Introductory paragraph at the beginning of the review.
  6. Concluding and/or summary paragraph at the end of the review.
  7. Are there debates in this area of research? What are they?
  8. Are there contradictions, uncertainties in the literature? Have you discussed these?
  9. Has the literature review added up to something? Has it laid the groundwork for your research project?  Have you been thorough in educating the reader about the topic?
  10. Is the format appropriate?
  11. Is the paper well organized?
  12. Have you written in the 3rd person, in a scholarly manner?
  13. Has the paper been carefully proofread with care taken with punctuation, spelling, grammar and clarity?
  14. Have you clearly expressed your thoughts in writing?
  15. Have you used 12-point font, Times New Roman, and double spaced?
  16. Has the literature been properly cited both in text and at the end of text using APA format?


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