The purpose of this assignment is to encourage you to establish a base of knowledge early in the semester and organize your thoughts around your research project. This will allow me to give you feedback so you can troubleshoot before it is too late in the term.
• Your literature review should be ~5-6 pages double-spaced (font 11 minimum). Use Mendeley to cite your sources (format references for the journal Ecology).
• Your review should be a single continuous narrative. Topic-based subheadings/sections are fine, but no numbered or lettered points as in your outline.
• Your review should:
a) introduce your topic and why it is important,
b) provide a review of the literature and background on your subject,
c) identify gaps in the literature and explicitly state the research question you hope to address, and your hypothesis
• Identify and integrate relevant publications into your review – think about what each paper is contributing to your research question. Your goal is to tell a story, not to write a laundry list
• Guide readers through the relevant background information so that when you describe your research question, they understand how it fits in and how your research will help to “fill in the gap” in our understanding.
• Outline your proposal first by identifying the big points you want to make. These points will then help shape your paragraphs. Each paragraph each has a purpose and you should be able to say what it is.
• Clearly state your hypothesis (italics and/or bold font). Consult resources to ensure that you understand how to craft your hypothesis. Make sure to explain your reasoning—what is the basis or rationale for your hypothesis?
Fewer than 15 sources and many sources not appropriate.
Exactly 15 sources, or just a few extra, with heavy reliance on just a few.
More than 15 sources with many identified by student.Literature cited is formatted completely and consistently.
Use of sources
Many papers do not contribute to narrative of review.
Some papers cited do not contribute to narrative of review.
All papers cited contribute to the narrative of the review.
No clear organization or organizational plan inconsistent. No goal stated.
Well organized with organizational plan obvious throughout. Goal of review not clear/vaguely stated.
Organization demonstrates understanding of literature information on the topic, and organizational plan enhances presentation, promoting ease in reading. Goal of review clearly stated and appropriate.
Knowledge of the field
Routinely omits or misrepresents basic disease ecology.
Omits or misrepresents some aspects of basic disease ecology.
Understands and clearly presents basic diseaseecology.
Level of detail presented
Few specific results presented. General conclusions only described.
Some specific results reported. No clear rationale for including some detail, but not others.
Detailed specific findings always reported, and in logical order.
Lacks any synthesis of the information, leaving each article as a stand-alone piece and/or misinterprets the information and makes statements unsupported by the literature.
Generally synthesizes the main knowledge gained only. Few connections made.
Shows insightful synthesis of the literature, including analysis of gaps in and/or limitations of the research. Always presents the big picture.
Does not relate research focus to the larger field of science.
Relation between research focus and larger field of science vaguely or incompletely explained.
Clearly explains how research focus relates to the larger field of science.
Research question and hypothesis
Does not state specific and testable hypothesis in clear and proper format.
Does present hypothesis but it is not in proper format and/or is not concisely stated.
Presents research question and hypothesis clearly and concisely in proper format.
Contains spelling or grammatical errors, and does not follow format guidelines. Writing is repetitive and difficult to follow.
Contains no spelling or grammatical errors, follows format guidelines. Writing is concise and easy to follow.
Contains no spelling or grammatical errors, conscientiously follows guidelines. Writing is concise and creatively uses language to enhance written narrative. A pleasure to read.
Literature Review Writing Tips:
1. Write in logical order.
1. Your writing is easiest to follow when we’re comfortable with what should come next. Remember, you’re telling a story.
2. Transition sentences are important. Help make the flow and order very clear for your reader. However, beware ‘fluffy’ or overly flowery transitions. Good science writing is clear and direct.
2. Use sufficient, not suffocating detail
1. Always a good strategy
2. For example, unless you’re writing about the methods of manipulating temperature and immunity, you don’t have to list every system in which immunity varied with temperature and exactly what the authors did to manipulate it.
Instead, you can likely get away with saying “numerous studies have shown links between temperature and immunity, including work on birds, bats, bees, belugas, and beetles (references).” Here you’d need at least 5 citations (one for each of the 5 systems you mentioned), unless there is a perfect review paper on the topic
3. If you don’t want to cite all 50 papers on a topic, you can always cite a few and use “e.g.” in front of the citations to indicate that these are just examples of a broader literature.
3. Write simply but engagingly
1. Long, convoluted sentences are bad.
2. Using only short sentences makes reading choppy.
3. A better strategy is to mix short sentences with longer ones. This does not mean using incredibly long, hard-to-follow sentences, with eighteen commas. However, a few commas in a sentence is OK.
4. Beware “too many ideas” in one sentence
5. Use technical language where appropriate, but make sure that you can clearly define the words you are using. Don’t use jargon as “lazy paraphrasing” (i.e. using the authors’ words because you aren’t sure what the main point is)
6. Know your own fatal writing flaws. Do you tend to leave out detail? Or to make things unnecessarily complicated? Run-on sentences? Sentence fragments? Typos?
4. Use sources skillfully
1. Your role is to evaluate what you read, so that your review is a critical analysis that makes sense of the collection of articles. Critique the research methodologies used in the studies, and distinguish between assertions (the author’s opinion, frequently in the Discussion section) and actual research findings (derived from empirical evidence, frequently in the Results section).
2. Identify relationships among studies, such as which studies were landmark ones that led to subsequent studies in the same area. You may also note that studies fall into different categories–these categories make excellent subsections of your review!
3. Justify comments such as, “no studies were found.”
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