A literature review (“lit review” for short) is an overview of research. Professionals write these to give a summary of the research that they've done on a topic, usually after having spent a long time thoroughly researching a particular topic. They are used in almost every field, from engineering to psychology to mathematics to business, though, of course, they look different in each field. Lit reviews are an excellent way to gain access to a broad range of research without having to spend years and years combing through hundreds of books and articles. For more info on lit reviews, check this site out: (Links to an external site.)

Normally, you would write a literature review after having done extensive research on a topic. You would use the lit review to bring all of your research together. For this assignment, though, I won't ask you to do any research beyond what you've already read. (We will do some research later in the course—for now, though, we'll use the lit review to summarize the conversation about the self so far.)

Your goal is to offer an overview of the various theories of selfhood and consciousness. You should show how the various theories relate or connect, how some theories might fill in the gaps of other theories, and how various theories might disagree with each other. As you do, look for the strengths as well as the limitations of various theories. Evaluate the theories and state how well you think their explanations hold up. 

How to construct and organize your lit review: 

Before you write:

Re-read the sources, or revisit what you've underlined. (You'll find here that annotated the text—especially underlining important points—can make your work a little easier.) Take notes as you do. Look for the various theories presented. Start to jot down how these theories relate and how they differ. You should also start looking for quotes that you might want to include in your essay.

Here are the texts that we will read:

  • “What Is the Self?”
  • Scientific American articles
  • “A New Theory Explains How Consciousness Evolved”
  • “Scientists Closing in on Theory of Consciousness”

Constructing your draft:

Your lit review should have the basic pieces:

  • An introduction: Give a broad overview of the topic of theories of the self, and establish why this topic is worth researching. Show your reader why this topic matters. (Note that it is a good idea to write your introduction last, after you’ve constructed the body of your essay.)
  • The body: Here is where you will actually summarize and synthesize the articles you read. It's up to you how you organize the body, but here are a couple different approaches:
  • Chronological: Start from the earliest theories, and work your way up to the later ones.
  • Thematic: Arrange the like theories together. Arrange them in an order that makes sense.

However you organize, you should: A) Summarize the sources, and B) Explain how the sources relate or interact with each other. You might consider devoting one paragraph to each source, or perhaps you want to put two or more sources in each paragraph to show how they relate.

  • Conclusion: Here is where you summarize the research. You should also mention what questions still need to be answered and where the research should go in the future.

Why? So what? 

I'm asking you to do this to practice your summary and synthesis skills. You will also learn how to work with sources, how to cite, and how to paraphrase, all of which will be useful for this class as well as future college classes. Finally, I hope you begin to learn about how to see the conversation between a variety of texts and how they inform each other.


  • 3-4 pages, double spaced, 12 point Times New Roman
  • MLA-style works cited page




Development: How well you've considered, constructed, thought through, and expressed your ideas. A well-developed paper has the following qualities: 

·         Your writing is clear and easy to understand. It flows smoothly. Phrasing and wording is effective.

·         You have thought through and considered the various theories presented. You show a clear understanding of them.

  • You synthesize, analyze, and evaluate the various theories

·         Your draft shows signs of revision for clarity.

·         Your draft contains enough detail, elaboration, and explanation of the topic.

·         You show an audience awareness. You explain the topic well enough that someone who has not read the essays would be able to understand the topic.

Organization and coherence: How well the various parts of your essay are constructed, and how well you create a progression of ideas. A well-organized paper has the following qualities: 

·         Your review has a clear introduction that gives an overview of the topic and establishes its importance.

·         You effectively use the paragraph as a unit to organize your review into manageable pieces. Each paragraph is clearly organized around one central topic or idea.

·         Your conclusion states possible directions for research in the future.

·         Your overall organization and sequencing of ideas is effective. You use transitions and other strategies to help “glue” your ideas together. 

Sources: How well you understand, draw from, and integrate the sources from class as well as any additional research you may have done. A paper that effectively uses outside sources has the following qualities: 

·         You effectively create the larger conversation by showing how the texts relate to or contradict each other.

·         You use quote marks to show borrowed information

·         You paraphrase effectively.

·         You smoothly integrate your quotes into your essay, contextualizing all quotes and then explaining them fully.

·         You use quotes accurately, showing that you have an understanding of the material.

Final grade: 

  • Posted: a month ago
  • Due: 
  • Budget: $60
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