Literature Review

Guidelines for Literature Review

Topic: Review the current academic literature on a topic you are considering for your policy analysis. Your literature review should do each of the following:

  • Situate your topic in the broader international relations literature. What do the different perspectives say about the topic?
  • Identify at least three key arguments made by scholars of international relations regarding your topic. What have they gotten right? What have they gotten wrong? Why?
  • Provide a general direction for your policy paper. Give some indication of the direction you believe the literature indicates for your policy memo.

Policy regarding “Humanitarian Intervention in Libya”

Please use 5 scholarly articles and with each article please do the following

Three Components of a Literature Review:

1. A brief analytical summary of the articles you have chosen on this topic. The key to a successful summary is to organize it by one or more common themes as opposed to independent summaries of the articles.  For example, you should write sentences such as: “ The question of what causes X is addressed by authors A, B and C… A claims that X is caused by Y, while B claims X is in fact caused by Z.” This first part should be about half of your paper.

2. A discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of the articles you analyze. This is fairly simple: think about both the logic and the empirical evidence presented by the authors, determine what you find persuasive and what you don’t, and write up your ideas in the form of a fair assessment of pros and cons.  Above all, be humble: you are a graduate student and these authors are experienced scholars.  You may question them, but be careful about sounding like you know more than they do; very likely, you do not.  This should be about 25 percent of your paper.

3. A last segment (25% or so) about suggestions for improving this literature: what questions are not answered adequately? What questions are ignored? How should scholars go about this topic to advance their understanding of it? What will you do differently when you address these questions in your own research project?   Again, be humble.

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