In a Tortoiseshell: In her junior paper, Rebecca Kahn explores the influence of socioeconomic status and cultural context on undergraduate students’ conception of service work. One of the primary strengths of this paper is its literature review: by summarizing and pinpointing shortcomings in the research around her topic, Rebecca ultimately solidifies the importance of her contribution to the greater body of scholarship concerning service work.
What makes for a good literature review? The literature review section is an opportunity for students to show their understanding of the research that they have undertaken. However, it’s also an opportunity to enter the scholarly conversation. A paper’s literature review is a way for a writer to craft the ballroom of conversation that they are entering. What existing scholars are talking? Who agrees with who? Where are the disagreements? By establishing what dynamics exist in the ballroom, the writer can then establish how they are going to enter this conversation.
The possibilities for entering the conversation are endless. The writer can piggyback off of existing academic arguments by extending them and examining them in a new context. Or the writer can enter an argument between two scholars, taking sides with one of the scholars or acting as a mediator. The possibilities are endless, but the direction that the argument will be taking is dictated entirely by how the writer depicts these scholars interacting with one another in the lit review.