Literature Review Writing Assignment

Literature Review Assignment

The primary thrust of this assignment is to propel you to engage in effective research, to understand the scholarship taking place with regard to what you are writing about, and your demonstrating that you can effectively engage not just the assigned readings, but the scholarship as well. To this end, the writing assignments consist of a mini-literature review.

The purpose of this paper is to stimulate your thinking about one of the writers we’ve encountered, your choice, and how that writer can be read and maybe even better understood. Reading is said to be both the discerning and constructing of meaning. This task is going to provide practice with both. In short, tell the reader what you learned from reading and engaging the scholarly source and how that enabled you to see the primary text in a more thoughtful way.

Your audience is me, your instructor, and your classmates who will provide feedback and help. More broadly, your audience is anyone who has an interest in better understanding or appreciating the value of early American literature at any level.

For the first half of the class, choose from among the fiction readings. For the second half of the class, choose from among the poems or poets Or one of the plays we've read.

The Basics

Your essay/literature review must contain the following:

  • The introduction should provide authors' names (full name on first mention, last name only after that), the titles of the text being summarized, and the point the summary's response is seeking to make. Of course, you also need to introduce the American author and text(s) you will be working with. Additionally, there should be some general, background, information the primary text and/or author and the point that will be raised by the thesis. This general information will typically be used
  • The body of the essay should capture the essence of the summarized article (first part) and clearly articulate your view of the assigned reading as it relates to the world and/or your life today (second part).
  • The summary should do the following: In doing so, pay particular attention to the following:
    • Provide proportional representation. If the author(s) provide just a few paragraphs for a particular notion, you should be equally brief. If they provide quite a few paragraphs, then you should provide summary proportionally.
    • Make it clear these are author's words. To do so, you should introduce his words with something such as this: In chapter one, "Introductory," Mills stresses the idea that . . .." I hope you get it from this example.
    • Present the material being summarized in the same order the author(s) do(es).
    • Hit on all of the major ideas/details.
    • Rely minimally on quotes; paraphrasing is fine. Quotes should be no more than 3-5 words, give or take. Citations required.
    • Provide citations and attributions to make it clear who is the thinker behind the words and ideas from the sources.
  • This assignment calls for at least two response points that makes clear how the piece of literature/scholarship you summarized sheds some light on your understanding of the poem(s) or play. Generally speaking, your paragraphs will follow this format:
  • Provide a topic statement that makes clear the topic/point of the paragraph, which is whatever light is shed on the writer or text by the essay.
  • Explain briefly why this point is one someone should care about when reading the author's works.
  • Provide an example from the author to illustrate this point, with proper citation.*
  • Provide a passage from the summarized text that makes clear how it sheds light on the author's work(s). *
    * It doesn’t matter which of these comes first and which comes second. Do what makes the most sense to you.
  • Conclude the paragraph with an explanation establishing a reasonable relationship between the data of this paragraph and the claim of the thesis. In short, connect the dots for your reader.
  • The conclusion should leave the reader with some sense of finality. This sense will, of course, depend upon the claim of the thesis. Many students simply restate the thesis and rephrase the introduction. While such restatement can serve the purpose of reiteration, it does little, if anything, to advance the overall argument. Instead, it reminds readers what they already read. One way to get more out of a conclusion is to seek to drive home the point of the thesis. Think of the conclusion as your last chance to get readers to see things your way. You can re-emphasize the importance of the issue the thesis addresses, you can plug that issue into a broader, more global context. Whatever you do, find some way to make your essay stick with your reader as you wrap up while NOT adding any new information.

The summarized article(s) must be annotated and submitted with the essay when turned in for grading. If this does not happen, the essay will not be accepted for credit.