The Literature Review

Definition of a literature review: a body of text that helps a reader (and researcher) to understand current debates on the chosen topic. It is a “secondary source.”

Step 1) Groundwork that you do BEFORE library research:

-mini-step a) Just to give you an example, if you wanted to write an essay on the poetry of Robert Creeley in The Black Mountain Review, you would want to devise a plan to take a position on the poem/ set of poems.

-mini-step b) You may want to ask specific questions to get to your main argument. For example: What specific events inspired the poem/ set of poems? Are the artist’s motives political? Are they religious? What sort of formal elements do we see in the poem (think about the difference between Eliot’s early poetry in The Little Review and “The Wasteland” in The Dial)? Are the lines a narrative of a specific event, or are they more broadly applicable?

You can certainly ask other questions, but this handful might get you started right away.

-mini-step c) Decide how you want to focus your paper: are you going to focus on the historical/ political aspect? What about the religious undertones? Out of the questions you asked, which one seems the most intriguing and “doable”?

Step 2) Go to the library or go online to the library’s database site. Search for articles with your keywords.

Step 3) Read the articles that seem the most relevant to your specific question.

Step 4) Out of the handful of essays that you read, choose two that BEST argue with/ argue against/ or argue with AND against the thesis that you are going to argue in your paper.

Step 5) Write one paragraph (4-5 sentences) that includes all of the following:

-Stating the article writer’s argument (1 sentence)

-Stating an interesting component of the writer’s argument (1 sentence)

-Stating your own views on the argument (i.e., does it validate/ invalidate/ change  your argument?) (1 sentence)

-Stating how you are going to integrate this secondary source into your own paper (1-2 sentences)