Subject: Literature Review
Class: Organizational Communication
Professor: Dr. Anita Foeman
Type: Full credit, graded assignment
Length: Approximately 4 pages
Due date:

Goal: The purpose of this paper is to have students examine a communication issue of organizational significance. This will help you discover what others in your area of interest have learned about your topic. Using the work and insights of those who have come before, we can move continually forward as a field and avoid "reinventing the wheel."

Guidelines: It is possible to approach writing a literature review in a variety of ways. Below, I have outlined the way I approach the assignment. Use what is helpful to you. Just be sure that you meet all required standards. I have highlighted these below.

First, select a topic of interest that is relevant to some area of organizational communication. Clear the topic with me before you get very involved in the research process. Depending upon how much research has already been conducted in that area, you may need to narrow or broaden your topic. For example, if you are writing about "women in organizations," you will probably find lots of materials, so you may have to narrow your topic to "leadership styles of executive women." On the other hand, if you want to write about "the use of listening skills in management team meetings," you will probably have to broaden to research to something like "the impact of listening in organizations." See me if you need help with this.


For the first time, this year I am allowing students to use a PERSON as his or her topic for analysis. If you decide to use a researcher as your topic, select five works by a particular writer (co-authored papers are okay) of note in our field. Try to pick five articles related to the same or similar issues, and follow the basic assignment guidelines here; focusing on that individual's perspective on the topic.

After you have selected and cleared your topic, you can begin your research in ernest. The literature review must include published articles from refereed, academic journals. These must have been published within the past TEN years. The librarian can be of tremendous help in guiding you to appropriate journals.

You must find at least FIVE journal articles that address your topic. You will find that some of the articles are very technical and complex. Read the abstract first to give you an overview and then work through each article section by section trying to identify the overall points being made.

As you search for articles try to include at least one or two communication journals. This isn't always possible, but try. Communication titles include, but are not limited to, the following:







Other journals include the Western Journal of Communication and Communication Research Reports. As you collect articles, consider taking notes that highlight main points relevant to your topic. Especially note where your various articles agree or disagree with one another.

As you write your paper your task is to report the state of the art in your chosen area of research. The goal is NOT to give your personal perspective. Rather, you will summarize what is said and come to some conclusions about what it all means. I generally suggest that you organize your paper around three or four main points that seem to be dealt with in the literature. For example, if you are talking about listening in organizations, you may find that the literature focuses on topics like 1) how co-communicators respond to strong eye contact, 2) the impact of using summary statements, and 3) the impact of note-taking on organizational outcomes. Let the literature guide your paper's organization and focus.

Present your materials in an organized manner. And let the reader know the organizational structure of the paper. I suggest the basic three part presentation:

INTRODUCTION: Introduce your reader to your topic and perspective. Set the tone of the paper. You don't need a fancy opening (it's okay to say, "The purpose of this paper is to discuss the research regarding…") You may open with some attention-gaining device.

As part of the introduction, overview the main points you plan to cover. Identify clearly for the reader the logic behind your organizational choice. Are your three points those that recur in the literature? Tell the reader. For example, "Research on manager interpersonal styles tends to be divided into investigation on managers over 40 and those under 40.''

BODY: In the body of the paper you have the task of carrying out what you overviewed in the introduction. As you move through the paper, remember to review each individual article. For example, discuss with whom the research was conducted and how. Identify each article by author and publication date (APA format). Do not list the titles of the articles. It's a waste of space. State, for example, "Jones (1997) conducted research with new management trainees ...) Compare and contrast research and findings as you go.

At the end of each discussion (both at the end of each article and each major point) "clinch" your point by telling the main idea you wish to convey.

CONCLUSION: At the end of your paper review your main points and summarize the overall conclusion to be reached at the end of your research. For example, "The research suggests that executives' listening skills are significantly more refined than the listening skills of ..."

Reference sheet: Include a listing of all articles to which you specifically referred throughout your literature review. Unlike a bibliography, a reference sheet does not include work you used in preparing your paper but did not refer to by specifically. You will, of course, include all five of the articles reviewed for this assignment.

Grading criteria:


Click for Sample Literature Review Clips and Student Sample