When we talk about a “literature review” , we mean a piece of technical writing that surveys the existing scholarly literature on a topic or idea. Other names for this kind of document are “survey” or “prior research.” Many journal articles and conference presentations include a section that does the work of a literature review. For example, download the following article from the ACM Digital Library:
Hao, J. and Mendes, E. 2006. Usage-based statistical testing of web applications. In Proceedings of the 6th international Conference on Web Engineering (Palo Alto, California, USA, July 11 – 14, 2006). ICWE ’06, vol. 263. ACM, New York, NY, 17-24.
Section 2 of that article is a literature review. Please read that part of the article, Section 2, which covers pages 2 and 3 of the PDF file. (Those same pages are numbered 18 and 19 in the proceedings.)
Another example is available on the UIS CSC website, at https://edocs.uis.edu/tmims1/www/mastersprojectfinal/rogerfinal10.pdf . This is from Dr. Roger West’s final project report. In this file, please read pages 9-29 of the PDF file (marked pages 5-24 in the document).
In both of these examples, the authors want to solve a problem (in the first, improve the testing of web sites; in the second, develop a software tool). But before describing how they tried to solve their problems (or at least how they tried to make progress on their problems), the authors educate the reader about important existing ideas that are related to the problem, ideas that have already been published. In an earlier lecture, I talked about “standing on the shoulders of giants.” In a literature review, an author describes the “giants” that the author found helpful when thinking about the problem.
A good literature review “tells a story” to the reader, the story of a problem or issue, and how previous thinkers have approached this problem. The author of a literature review has studied the problem or issue, and now wants to share some of what s/he has learned. This sharing should be in the author’s own words, and should try to develop an idea or theme that weaves throughout the literature review. The paraphrasing and selection of ideas is the value added of the literature review.
A literature review should NOT be merely a string of quotes from previous authors. That would be jarring for the reader because each author quoted has a unique perspective, a unique style, and a unique vocabulary. The author of a good literature review uses his/her own perspective, style, and vocabulary to describe the ideas and results of many previous authors. This gives the review a coherence and readability that can’t happen with a list of quotes. Of course, the author of the review must give credit to the previous authors for their ideas, and this is done by citations to each of the articles reviewed.
It is acceptable to have a quote or two in a literature review. Indeed, if one particular author has stated something in a strikingly eloquent way, a single quote or perhaps two in a literature can be entirely appropriate and helpful. However, more than a few quotations, especially long ones, are to be avoided. (Interpretation: if you use too many direct quotes in your literature review assignment, you will lose points.) We need to hear YOUR interpretation of the authors reviewed.
The WORST thing to do in a literature review is to copy a previous author’s words and then NOT use quotation marks and NOT use a citation. Doing that is plagiarism, and that is a scholarly crime. When you use someone else’s ideas, then you must also include a citation. When you use someone else’s words, then you must indicate that those words are quoted (using quote marks for relatively short quotes, and using indentation for longer quotes), AND you must also include a citation. Note well: we do not want a bunch of quotations as your literature review; but if you DO use someone else’s words, you MUST use quote marks or indentation, and you MUST cite the quoted works. We assume that you will be using other people’s ideas in the literature review, and that you will give citations for each of those ideas with a citation.
In your previous assignment, the annotated bibliography assignment, you gave short summaries of at least 5 papers. Return to your annotated bibliography and those papers. Find a “story” that involves at least 4 of those papers. (You may decide to use more, but may not use less than 4.) This might be an idea, a problem, or an issue that these papers all discussed, either directly or indirectly. Your assignment is to write a literature review on that idea, problem or issue. Somewhere in that literature review, you must mention the contribution of each of those papers to your story, with a citation for each.
Naturally, you must READ all of the papers you cite, each one from top to bottom. Only then can you do a thorough job of writing about the story that each of those papers touches in some way.
Think up a descriptive title for your literature review. The title of your review should be of the following form: “Literature Review: Z, by W”, where Z is a descriptive phrase that tells us what your “story” is about; and where W is your name. Also include the date after your title and your name.
You are not limited to the papers in your annotated bibliography, but you should use at least 4 of the papers in your annotated bibliography in your literature review. You may want to find more recent papers or more “ancient” papers that are important to your theme. Whatever papers you cite must be available in either the ACM Digital Library or the IEEE Digital Library. However, you need to include at least 4 papers from your annotated bibliography in your literature review. Hopefully the work you did on your annotated bibliography will be helpful to you while you are doing the literature review.
No matter how many words you use, your literature review should follow this general outline: INTRODUCTION, IMPORTANT IDEAS, CONCLUSION, and REFERENCES. In the introduction, tell us the “big idea” that forms the core of your story. All the papers cited in your review should have relevant information to this big idea: a problem, an idea, or a project. In the IMPORTANT IDEAS section you discuss what each of the papers has to say about this big idea. Aim for at least one paragraph for each paper, and probably two paragraphs for papers that are particularly relevant to your big idea. In your conclusion, wrap things up and compare and contrast what the different papers had to say about your big idea. In the conclusion, you should tell the reader the most important things you learned while researching your big idea. The references section holds the citations of all the papers you cite in the review; this must be in the IEEE style.
This literature review assignment is a major assignment for this course. You are NOT allowed to get outside advice on this assignment except from your instructor or from the UIS Center for Teaching and Learning. You may NOT find an existing literature review on a topic and copy or paraphrase that existing work. That would be plagiarism, and if discovered, plagiarism in this course will have dire consequences. You are to write this yourself, using your own words to describe the ideas of others as found in their articles, articles that you cite.
This assignment should be turned into the appropriate Blackboard Digital Dropbox by the due date and time, in a single file. The file may be in any of the following formats: .RTF, .DOC or .DOCX. You may also use an Open Office format. The name of your file must be “lastnameHW2.XXX” where “lastname” is replace by your last name according to Blackboard, and “XXX” is replace by .RTF, .DOC, or .DOCX, depending on which format you use. For example, I would turn in vespaHW2.RTF.
You used the ACM style of citations for your citation graph and for your annotated bibliography. For this assignment, you are required to use an IEEE form of citations. IEEE citation style is described nicely in a website that belongs to Monash University: http://www.lib.monash.edu.au/tutorials/citing/ieee.html. One of the big differences between the IEEE style and the ACM style is the order of the references section. An ACM reference list is ordered alphabetically by the last name of the first author; but an IEEE reference list is in the order of the first citation in the body of your text. Make sure you use the IEEE order in your literature review.
When you look up a citation, even if it is from the IEEE or ACM Digital Library, there is no guarantee that the citation will be in the correct format. You have to make sure that your literature review has correct citations that are consistent with each other and consistent with the IEEE style as described in the link above.
Here is the grading rubric that will be used to score your assignment. There are 30 points total for this assignment.
GRADING RUBRIC for the Literature Review
1. Was the literature review turned in on time to the proper dropbox?
2. Is the file named correctly?
3. Is the file in one of the formats specified?
4. Did the student include his/her name and the date?
5. Are citations and references correct, consistent, and in the IEEE format?
6. Does the literature review follow the outline given in the specification?
7. Are there spelling, grammar, and formatting problems?
8. Does the paper tell a good story?
9. Is the length appropriate?
10. Are the technical details described precisely?
11. Are all definitions of terms and of acronyms given before the term or acronym is used?
12. Did the author use a quote without using quote marks or indentation? If so, this is a major problem.
13. Did the author use ideas from a source without citing the source? If so, this is a major problem.
14. What is the reader’s overall impression of this literature review?