How is the lit review different from the annotated bibliography?

TASK THREE:  THE REVIEW OF LITERATURE

How is the lit review different from the annotated bibliography? 

An annotated bibliography is an organizational tool that simply lists and describes each source.  The literature review is a prose document that synthesizes these sources in relation to each other. 

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For this class, your lit review should:

  • Develop an interesting introduction that engages the reader and sets the stakes for your topic, explaining why it matters now (think:  “exigence”).
  • ●        Use a meaningful organizational schema to describe the “conversation” about your topic. See below for tips.
  • Develop a thesis statement that clearly indicates the organization schema you are using
  • ●        Summarize and synthesize at least 12 sources, in relation to each other and the field of inquiry.
  • ●        Demonstrate deliberate and thoughtful selection of sources that are evidently related to the research topic.
  • ●        Demonstrate careful reading and comprehension of these sources.
  • Demonstrate logical and critical thinking in the form of analysis, critique, comparison, conceptualization, synthesis, etc.
  • Communicate complex ideas in lucid sentences. Avoid “obfuscation as shield” (i.e., aims for simple, clear sentences over performance of academic-ese.)
  • ●        Organize paragraphs within the essay to provide a logical sequence or “flow” (deliberate “architecture”)
  • Use topic sentences, signal phrases, and/or transition sentences to guide the reader through the organization of the essay
  • ●        Paraphrase carefully and accurately.
  • ●        Avoid “over-quoting.” A lit review must not be an endless string of quotes. Take the time to put the ideas into your own language.
  • ●        Use signal phrases to introduce quotes.
    Use proper formatting to incorporate quotations into prose
  • Use properly formatted parenthetical citations to cite sources within the body of your text
  • Conclude with a meaningful, thoughtful conclusion that is not merely reiterative. Often lit reviews will gesture toward future research that should be done to continue expanding the field of knowledge on this topic.
  • Document all sources in a References List, properly formatted according to the style guide
  • ●        Approximately 2000 words, in prose paragraphs
  • ●        Proofread to eliminate distracting grammatical errors

How many sources should I use?  Do I have to use all the sources from my annotated bibliography? Will I have to do more research than my AB?

For this assignment, you need to include at least 12 sources. These sources very well may come straight from your AB, or you may discover you need to return to the archives to locate additional or different sources. That’s a natural part of the research process; as you refine your topic and discover gaps in your knowledge, you dive back into the databases. Likewise, you are likely to include more sources in your final essay than will appear in your lit review.  Each of these steps (writing the prospectus, preparing the annotated bibliography, writing the lit review) is part of the process of discovery.

How should I organize my literature review?

There are a lot of ways to organize a lit review. Here are some suggestions, lightly modified from a guide by the Lemieux Library at Seattle University:

  1. Chronology:  If your sources demonstrate a linear progression or a trend in the field of study, as new research builds upon and advances prior knowledge, it might make sense to describe your sources in chronology of publication. This option would make most sense if the publication dates between your sources represents a meaningful span of time.  For example, if you are writing about the development of Covid19 policy and you have sources from March 2020, June 2020, and August 2020, the chronological development of those ideas might be very meaningful, given the rapidly changing contexts. However, if you are looking at a history of mass incarceration and you have sources from 2009, 2011, and 2013, the chronology of publication might not be all that significant. However, if you are looking at sources from 1989, 1996, 2009, and 2017, you may very well observe significant developments in how scholars were thinking about this topic.
  1. Theme/Concept/School of Thought:  A thematic review of literature is organized around ideas, concepts, or schools of thought. Imagine your sources as groups of people in a conversation. Who is in agreement with who? What is the nature of the disagreement between these people?  For example, if you were examining the phenomena of political polarization, you might find a set of sources that points to causes of polarization, another set that describes problems caused by polarization, and another set that asserts that polarization is actually a natural and ever-present part of the political landscape. In a concept-based lit review, you would cluster these sources by idea and describe them in relation to each other.
  1. Methodology:  A methodological approach to a lit review focuses on the methods used by researchers. Let’s take that example of political polarization again. Perhaps you have one set of sources that is performing qualitative analysis of content found on social and mass media. Then you have another set of sources that looks at voting records of US Congress members, and yet another set of sources that relies on polling of voters on their ideological priorities. You might organize your literature review around the type of evidence researchers are using and the methods they use to collect that data.

The point is that a literature review does not simply summarize sources one after another. If you just copy-and-paste your annotations from your annotated bibliography into a prose paragraph, you have not done enough. You need to discover a meaningful organizational schema and synthesize your sources in relation to each other.

Other tips:

  • Make sure the sources you’ve selected are clearly, significantly related to your research topic. Again, you might need to look beyond what you found when you created your annotated bibliography.
  • You simply cannot include every bit of research you found on your topic. That’s okay.  Select the sources for your lit review deliberately. 
  • Remember that you are analyzing the conversation. You are not just documenting the “facts” about your topic. This is a different way to think about sources, and it can be tricky to distinguish this difference at first. It can be helpful to remember that your sources were produced by people. Imagine those people in the same room talking to each other, and describe the conversation they are having about your research topic.
  • Don’t quote too much. Use quotes only when the primary language is essential to what you are trying to communicate. Otherwise, take the time to truly understand the idea and put it into your own words. It’s hard, but it will ensure you actually “get it.”
  • Paraphrase carefully. It’s critical that you accurately describe the sources.
  • Use signal phrases to introduce your sources. Check out the document in this folder for help.
  • Feel free to include your own voice! You are a scholar joining the conversation. You don’t yet need to produce your own evidence or arguments, but your thinking and perspective should be perceptible in your prose.

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