The Literature Review

The final step in applying for honors is to write a literature review, due in late fall quarter of the thesis year (Dec 1 in 2014). The literature review is essentially an extended introduction to the thesis, providing background and putting the thesis project into context. Typically, the scope of the literature review for the Honors Program will be broader than it would be for a journal article, simply because the target audience for the honors review is also broad. Students should aim to introduce their research topics to scientifically literate readers. At the same time, the review must be thorough and scholarly enough to express the significance of the particular thesis project within its subfield. Reviews normally range from 12 to 18 pages, including references.

A good literature review begins with a very brief description of the thesis project, to serve as a road map for the rest of the review. It continues with essential background information, followed by a discussion of the theoretical background and current state of research, which in turn leads into a more focused exploration of literature relevant to the specific thesis project. This last part is the most essential, because it allows a student to demonstrate command of the results, debates, and unanswered questions emerging from the current literature. Examples of strong literature reviews are available from the Student Services office.

Thesis students submit a copy of the review to each of their readers and an electronic copy to Lia Cacciari (cacciari@) in the Student Services office. An electronic copy should also be sent to Associate Director Katherine Preston (kpreston@). First readers must read and approve the literature review before a student can continue in the Honors Program. First readers may send their approvals by way of a brief email to

Return to Honors home