Literature Review


A literature review is a critical description of the scholarly writings on a given topic.  Its purpose is to evaluate what has already been written and to identify areas needing further study.  If you were writing a formal research paper, the literature review would also provide background for your own study and demonstrate what contribution your research would make to the field.

Assignment Learning Goals

The purpose of this assignment is twofold.  First, it is designed to introduce you to LIS databases and other information sources and get you started on your information community research.  Second, the assignment will teach you the basic format and style of a scholarly literature review and give you experience writing one. This assignment meets the INFO 200’s learning goals 1-3.

Assignment Requirements 

Using LIS databases and other pertinent information sources, locate 10 to 12 secondary sources about the information needs and information-seeking behaviors of the information community you are researching.  At least 8 of these sources must be scholarly, peer-reviewed studies (books and articles) related to your community’s information use.  The remaining sources can be professional or popular in orientation but still must provide useful data regarding your information community.

The literature review (excluding the reference list) should be a minimum of 2,000 words in length and no more than 2,500 maximum, double spaced, and in APA format.  It should contain the following components:

Introduction.  Identify your information community and explain the significance of studying the information behaviors of this group. Describe the general nature of the literature and note the topics that will be covered in the review.

Review of writings.  The body of the literature review should provide a synthesis and critical analysis of the published research about the information needs and information-seeking behaviors of the information community you are researching.  Your discussion should address the following points:

  • Who has written on the topic?
  • Are the articles professional or scholarly in orientation and how would you compare the two types of writings?
  • What subtopics or themes have been covered?
  • What, if any, schools of thought have developed?
  • Are there are any controversies within the literature?
  • What approaches or methodologies have been used?
  • What weakness, biases, or gaps exist?

For each of the above, be sure to provide concrete examples from the books and articles you’ve located to support and illustrate your points. Apply the information theories we’ve studied in class to your information community. Emphasis should be on information searching behaviors of members within your info community and should include information seeking theories we have studied thus far in the course. Don’t forget to give parenthetical references for every author or publication mentioned in the text.

Conclusion. In your final paragraph summarize your findings regarding the literature on your community and discuss areas needing further study.


The reference list should be in APA format and include all sources referred to in the text. The items should be arranged in alphabetical order by author’s last name. Entries should be double spaced and formatted in hanging indent style.  Note: If you have not cited material in your review, it does not belong in the Reference section.


Submit your finished paper to Canvas (not your blog) using the file naming convention: “LastName_NameofAssignment”.

Sample Assignments:

Moskovitz – Phish Fans Community

Serna – Bike Commuters

Literature Review
Criteria Points
Makes effective use of LIS and other scholarly databases to locate current, peer-reviewed books and articles. Discusses 10 to 12 publications, at least 8 of which are peer-reviewed.
2 pts
Describes the information community being studied and the significance of the group. Identifies the general characteristics of the writings on the community.
2 pts
Organizes the paper around the major characteristics or themes in the literature rather than discussing one publication after another with few logical connections among the ideas.
6 pts
Addresses the required topics outlined in the assignment guidelines: information behaviors of the community, important authors; nature of writings; subthemes and debates, methodologies, and weaknesses and gaps.
6 pts
Presents all required elements of the paper with clarity of prose/strong writing style, with proper form and grammar.

 4 pts
Total Points: 20