Literature Review Instructions This page describes the main writing assignment of this course. Students will work on it over the entire semester. Students in this course will write a a substantive lit

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Literature Review Instructions

This page describes the main writing assignment of this course. Students will work on it over the entire semester.

Students in this course will write a a substantive literature review on a topic related to psychology. That is, most of your research articles for this literature review should come from peer-reviewed psychology journals. It is also important that this literature review be unique. Thus, if you have written a similar style of paper for another class, you should not use the exact same topic here (this will also help you avoid the academic dishonest behavior turning in the same work for two different grades). The literature review must be at least 8 pages of text and include at least 10 references.

Literature reviews do more than summarize an area of research.  They synthesize information and evaluate research in a particular area. Literature reviews are difficult and time consuming, but by the end of the semester you should have the tools you need to complete this endeavor. Below I provide additional information about these assignments.

Writing the literature review

  • To begin the literature review, first chose a topic. Your topic should be current, well studied, and specific. Make sure it sufficiently narrow so that you can review the research on it thoroughly.
  • Find scholarly research articles on your topic (these must come from primary, scholarly sources only; most of your sources should be empirical peer-reviewed journal articles). Evaluate each article your find in terms of its currency. Decide if the publication is outdated (is it an important “classic” study or is it just old?) and if the publication meets the need of your topic and paper. Is it relevant? Does the article provide new information about your topic
  • Summarize and analyze each article. Paraphrase important content. Paraphrase the main claims and the main evidence used to support the claims. Take your time with each article (re-read it several times) to make sure you understand it well and can explain it in your own words.
  • Synthesize the content. Once you fully understand all of your source material, organize your knowledge by topic or subtopic. Draw connections and correlations between the various research studies. Examine points of contradiction and hypothesize the reasons for these discrepancies. Be skeptical of the claims presented—does the evidence support each claim? Your paper should be organized by ideas, claims, or arguments.
  • Write the review.
  • The literature review format

Keep in mind

Your literature review should

  • Place your study in the context of other work that has already been done in the field
  • Inform the reader about the main theories in the area or field
  • It may establish the need for the future research by identifying gaps in knowledge

Do’s and don’ts for your literature review

  • Do

    • Organize your paper before you begin writing
    • Provide strong transitions between the discussion of one idea and another (e.g., transitional statements help the reader follow your line of thought and create “flow” throughout the paper [see Mitchell, Jolley, & O’Shea, 2013, pp. 18-19])
    • Reference appropriately (please see Mitchell, Jolley, & O’Shea text)
    • Write well and see someone in the success center or smart thinking if you need help
  • Don’t

    • Simply paraphrase an existing literature review
    • Use more than one or two quotes in the entire paper
    • Rely heavily on secondary sources (use primary articles published in peer reviewed scholarly journals)
    • Include anecdotal information
    • Discuss each article separately as if writing an abstract on each

Course assignments: A number of assignments have been designed to help you review topics from previous courses and complete the scholarly papers.

Assignments to help you complete the literature view.

Week: assignment

1: APA assignment

2: Information literacy assignment (there are two of these assignments. First you’ll locate and list a lot of citations related to your topic and second, you’ll go through the initial list carefully and discard those that won’t work for your purposes). *

2: Plagiarism assignment*

2: Summarize an article*

3: Provide a final reference list

4: Write a literature review justification and outline

6: Turn in literature review draft for review (optional)

*Each of these activities requires that students demonstrate competence or mastery before he or she may continue in the course. These activities help ensure that only those who are ready to complete the course are able to move forward. If a student fails to gain mastery on these assignments, he or she should seek tutoring, and spend more time on the course or considering dropping and retaking the course when he or she has more time to commit to study and practice.


Students who chose to plagiarize will earn a zero on their paper and risk failure in the course. The turn-it-in software where students will upload their paper will alert the instructor of any sentences or phrases that closely match published work. Remember, to avoid plagiarism you should ensure that you have written your report in your own words. Each sentence that you create should bear little to no resemblance to the reports you read. If you must quote text do so sparingly and be sure to enclose quotes in quotation marks (and cite page numbers). It is expected that students in this class have mastered the ability to write about psychology. Thus, plagiarism in any form will not be tolerated.  Instances of plagiarism will be documented, sent to the Dean of Students, and placed on student’s permanent record. I will contact you and ask that you acknowledge the receipt/sign a document regarding the instance of plagiarism. Students who plagiarize risk failure in the course.

Suggestions for success:

Write. Rest. Revise. Repeat. I recommend completing these assignments early and then letting them “rest” before you revise them. Two to three days after you complete a draft, read it, revise it and improve it. No one writes brilliantly on the first draft. Brilliant writing comes only after several revisions.

Read the Landrum text. This book is invaluable because it not only describes how to write research papers, it also describes how to build logical arguments. Critical thinking and reasoning are essential to write well in psychology.

N.B., if you turned in a draft for feedback please add a comment when submitting. If you did not make changes, please write that. If you made revisions, please briefly summarize the changes you made. This will help me grade your work appropriately.

Rubric Literature Review 15 weeks Literature Review 15 weeks Criteria Ratings Pts This criterion is linked to a Learning Outcome Introduction: The paper starts off broadly, identifies key definitions or theories, identifies key problem and/or provides some theoretical or real world context for the topic 20 pts Good 16 pts Satisfactory 14 pts Problematic 13 pts Unacceptable 20 pts

This criterion is linked to a Learning Outcome Organization & Thesis Statement: The paper is organized around subheadings that identify key aspects, controversies, or patterns that emerge from the literature on his/her selected topic. A clear, succinct thesis statement is stated in the introduction which communicates the purpose and organization of the review paper. 60 pts Good 50 pts Satisfactory 44 pts Problematic 38 pts Unacceptable 60 pts

This criterion is linked to a Learning Outcome Summary of the research: The paper clearly describes the methodology, the results, and the main conclusions of the articles reviewed. The summary of the research is organized around subheadings and the discussion of the articles is cohesive and focused on key points, rather than a presentation of one study at a time. 80 pts Good 64 pts Satisfactory 56 pts Problematic 52 pts Unacceptable 80 pts

This criterion is linked to a Learning Outcome Analysis of research:The paper demonstrates a critical reading of the research. The author interprets the results or critiques the studies in interesting, unexpected ways, but ways that are based on reasonable logic and course concepts. 80 pts Good 64 pts Satisfactory 56 pts Problematic 52 pts Unacceptable 80 pts

This criterion is linked to a Learning Outcome Conclusions, Implications, & Suggestions for Future Directions: The paper concludes with a section that identifies the key patterns and gaps across the studies and demonstrates that the author has thought deeply about the possible implications of the results. 60 pts Good 50 pts Satisfactory 44 pts Problematic 38 pts Unacceptable 60 pts

This criterion is linked to a Learning Outcome Use of APA Style: Proper APA Style (7th edition) is used throughout the paper for headings, citing references in the body of the paper, and in listing sources in the reference list. 40 pts Good 32 pts Satisfactory 28 pts Problematic 26 pts Unacceptable 40 pts

This criterion is linked to a Learning Outcome Quality of writing: The paper is well-written in academic language (e.g., written in third person, no euphemisms or colloquial language) with no typographical or spelling errors and only minor grammatical errors. Each paragraph contributes new information and is void of redundancy. 60 pts Good 48 pts Satisfactory 42 pts Problematic 34 pts Unacceptable 60 pts

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