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Contemporary Societal Issues: L9 Literature Review Assignment


“The way things are does not determine the way they ought to be.”
― Michael J. Sandel, Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?

L9 Research Skills: Literature Review

TASK: Select a significant topic in contemporary society about which you feel strongly. Conduct focused research in order to write a literature review which presents a complete picture of the conversation around the topic. 


Literature Review ← Use this link to help you understand what a literature review actually is. There are helpful videos and a simplified breakdown of what is expected in this kind of assignment.

A literature review is preparation to join a conversation already in motion; it is an engagement with the intellectual work of a specific community. To do this, you will be asked to interpret, analyze, and evaluate sources and information in order to present a balanced understanding of the current state of the conversation. In the process, you might identify gaps in the research, and, after completion, identify pathways to fill those gaps and/or to address one or more of the issues involved. 

At its most basic form, a literature review is a big-picture study of what is being said about a topic. The tricky part of this type of writing is that you must conduct research on all perspectives. You are not making an argument about your topic, you are showcasing the entire discussion surrounding that topic. So for instance, if you are writing about animal cruelty, you must research and include the perspective of people who support factory farming. You don’t have to agree with them, but you must show that part of the conversation as well because it would not be a complete picture without it.


  • Choose a topic about which you feel strongly and  generate an initial Research Question (this can and probably will change throughout the process).

  • Read as much as you can about your topic, and keep notes about what you learn and from where you learned it on a Noodle Tools Project Page. 

  • After reading 3-4 sources, revisit your question and consider refining it.

  • Read more, looking for discussion surrounding your new, more specific question. Continue to update your Noodle Tools Project Page.

  • Once you’ve read 8-10 sources, craft a new and more specific question based on your research at this point. Share this question with your teacher for feedback and approval.

    • Ex: the topic of Black Lives Matter could narrow in this way: Black Lives Matter → Racial Profiling → high incarceration rates among Black males in America → disproportionate sentencing for Black Americans → underage minorities sentenced to death for crimes white people can get dismissed.


  • Keep reading. Ensure that all sources are credible and worth your valuable time. 

    • Some resources to consider: library, EBSCO, Point of View, etc. 

    • At least one should be from a library database.

  • Read. A lot. Be prepared for the reading. 

  • Annotate while you read. 

    • Information that supports your ideas.

    • Information that complicates your ideas. 

  • Make careful notes of the research and your thoughts. 

    • Work with your teacher on an appropriate process and product. 

  • Follow your teacher’s guidance about the organization of your sources, collected evidence, and reflection along the way.


  • Have a conference with your teacher at least one time during the research process.


  • Choose a suitable design for the information you want to present and hold to it (Strunk & White 15). 

    • Remember: “Planning must be a deliberate prelude to writing” (15), so if it is helpful to you, create an outline of your literature review. If you prefer, you can organize in some other way.

    • Avoid writing a paragraph about each source; instead make your thinking central and synthesize the sources to support your ideas and move your reasoning forward.

    • Your opening should be focused and clearly present your purpose. 

    • Your body paragraphs should interpret the sources, analyze their connection to each other, and critically evaluate their place in the conversation surrounding your topic.

    • Your conclusion should show your understanding of the significance of your research. It should flow logically from your analysis/reporting in the body paragraphs.

  • Share your draft with peer readers and ask for specific feedback: are you clear about the connections you’re making and is your reader able to follow your logic? Are your conclusions reasonable?


  • Write 3-5 pages in MLA format

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