Literature Review

A literature review has much in common with a summary, but it takes a broader view. A literature review generally takes some sort of perspective and then draws connections between a set of papers and that perspectives, using them to illustrate and deepen one's understanding of the perspective. In other words, it is important that you tell a story in your literature review, rather than simply listing a long list of papers. Papers may contribute through enhancing theory, demonstrating applications, and so on. Often the writer will argue that there is a gap or a need of some sort that is not filled by the literature, alternatively, the contribution of the literature survey may be a new way of framing and/or organizing the knowledge about this topic.

Your review should related to a topic covered in class and approved by the instructor. Keep in mind that a topic area (e.g., end user programming) is not specific enough, you need to pick a topic (e.g., "End user programming for finding information in educational contexts", or "pitfalls and successes in evaluating end user programming systems" or so on)  In other words, yes, it is appropriate to focus on a subset of an area, and in fact I want you to focus on an aspect of this that is relevant to your own interests/research. This will also help to differentiate you from the excellent review you already found, and allow you to make use of the work they did at the same time.

In writing up your review, you should aim to answer the following questions about your topic: What is the motivation for the topic?  What are the gaps that make it an important area to work in? What do the articles that you review contribute to our understanding of the topic? What is the current state of knowledge about the topic? What conclusions can be drawn from the research to date? What have the papers you reviewed contributed to our understanding of this topic? What are the next important questions that need to be answered? 

If you are discovery oriented, you should comment on what empirical questions might need to be answered for work in this area to move forward

If you are invention oriented, you should comment on what innovations are necessary for this area to move forward

Some secondary benefits of literature surveys

This kind of process is an important form of networking, background research for a PhD thesis, and generally benefits research. Once you've done this, you know who to try to meet at conferences, where to look for possible new work, and when you want to, say, sponsor a workshop on a topic, or find a summer internship, you've got the right contacts/people to invite. And it helps you to see where your own work fits in and how it is different. Always think about papers from this perspective as you read them. 

Other people's descriptions of how to do a literature review

1 page abstract & preliminary reference list due April 20th (written text should be 1 page, references can be as many pages as needed).

Final paper due Fri 5PM, May 1st.

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