ENG 101, Section 013

D. Vilhotti

November 15, 2007



Project 4: Literature Review and Multidisciplinary Analysis of an Issue or Topic


Purpose:  Social issues are complex. One way to look at a complex issue in a more complete way is through an academic discipline. But if understood through only one method of inquiry, such issues often appear deceptively simple. For example, in the sciences, AIDS can be seen as a medical syndrome, currently incurable; in the social sciences, it can be seen as a phenomenon having a significant impact on our culture’s approach to sex and social relations; in the humanities, it provides an avenue to explore death and dying. But how do all these approaches relate? Unless we analyze them together, the connections are not often apparent.


            This assignment asks you to analyze an issue for the ways in which all three disciplinary areas contribute to a more complete and complex understanding of an issue or topic. Your purpose in this paper is to explain the relative contributions of each of the disciplines and to explain the relationship between those disciplines and the insight they provide for your issue.


            The literature review is one of the most important and common forms of writing and inquiry that occurs in the academic arena.  Disciplines use the literature as a means of discovering what has been learned about a particular phenomenon and to determine what still needs to be researched and understood. Literature reviews are often a part of other academic genres.  In the hard sciences, for instance, literature reviews typically appear at the beginning of research reports.  Such reviews indicate that researchers are aware of the investigations of particular phenomenon that have come before.  In the humanities and social sciences, literature reviews work similarly, but they sometimes stand alone as academic genres unto themselves. 


Audience:  Your audience for this assignment is a group of fellow students who are interested in the topic of your research but who know very little about what is already known and understood about the topic.


The Assignment:  In this assignment, you will review a body of scholarship on a particular phenomenon in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. The topic should be applicable to interdisciplinary research. More specifically, you will read research articles published primarily in academic journals on the phenomenon of your own choosing.  You will then analyze and synthesize that material in order to determine the major areas of critical interest, concern, or controversy with regards to the overall understanding and treatment of the topic you’re researching or in regards to a particular facet of that research. Topics must be approved by me.


Choosing a Topic and Doing the Research: You’ll want to choose a topic that interests you and about which there is substantial public or academic debate. You may also consider avoiding topics that you already have a firm opinion on. It’s difficult to open yourself to inquiry when you have already made up your mind.


Once you have a topic, you’ll need to start your research. As part of this assignment you will need to find at least two scholarly sources on the topic for each discipline.





The Introduction should:

·         Identify the basic approaches and/or contributions that each disciplinary area makes to our understanding of this issue.

·         Present a thesis that explains your position on the specific relationship among the academic approaches.


Contain a literature review of the six or more articles.

·        Literature reviews should be organized around issues or questions. For the purpose of this interdisciplinary literature review, each discipline constitutes a topic / issue. However, there may be sub-topics within each discipline’s body of research.  Your body paragraphs should be organized according to the issues rather than the authors, so that development means synthesizing what each researcher has to say on the issue, whether similar or different, and concluding with the implications or importance of that similarity or difference.  For a more extensive description of the features, both global and local, re-read pages 138-143 in K&S.

·        Another way to view this assignment is to think about the work you just did for Project 3, part II: you are to isolate and describe one scholarly “debate” regarding your topic within each discipline. 



Conclusion / Analytical Essay: This is the conclusion to the literature review, yet it can almost be considered a separate essay unto itself.  In a literature review, the conclusion is the most important part because it reveals your analysis after a series of descriptions of scholarly debates.  Think of the literature review as the prep work that precedes an in-depth, well-researched, analytical essay on the issue.

·        Describe the state of knowledge on the issue in the three disciplines as shown by the research. In other words, discuss the similarities, differences, and/or omissions in the body of research.


Technical Considerations:

Length:                         8-12 pages total, typed and double-spaced

            Sources:                       6 or more academic sources for the literature review

            Grade Weight:               25%

            Proposal due date:         Tuesday, Nov. 20                    

(1-page topic proposal in which you explain 1) the importance/ interest of the topic, 2)why you think it is applicable to each discipline, and 3) provide a bibliography of the sources you will be using)

            3 reading logs due:         Tuesday, Nov. 27

            3 reading logs due:         Wednesday, Nov. 28

            Detailed outline due:       Thursday, Nov. 29

            Rough draft of Part 1:     Monday, Dec. 3

            Rough draft of Part 2:     Tuesday, Dec. 4

            Final draft due date:       Friday, Dec. 7



When I evaluate your literature review and analysis, I will be looking to see how well you synthesize – not summarize - the sources. You should be able to create a dialogue between the authors of each text. In the Introduction and Conclusion, I will be looking to see how well you analyze the issue and the contributions of each discipline. I will also be looking for how well you explain the connections between the disciplinary understandings of the issue.