Mapping The Territory

 For your written text this term you will be asked to produce a literature/practice review on a topic/subject/interest of your choice. You will choose a subject that you have an interest in and/or might possibly be the start of your research for your dissertation. Good quality research is always based on the quality and analysis of the texts and practices that illuminate and deepen any thinking about any chosen subject.




You have a number of options in the way you choose your topic/subject:

Option 1: Revisit the work you did in your first and are doing second terms of your second year. So this could be about documentary films and/or the making of these types of films, based on your work for Consume Peckham. You might take some of the ideas you learnt about in your ToP Elective and continue with that research. You may have found your person and their ideas in the Biographies project very stimulating and want to deepen the research you have already done for this. You may have come across some intriguing ideas in the Collections project and you may continue with this research. You may have found one of the texts like the “Uncanny” discussed in Contextual Studies, thought provoking and want to find out more about the ideas they generated. You may already have some useful research from the Performance you did in the first term and would like to continue this research further in this review.

Option 2: Take an aspect of your Communication Design Practice that you are curious about and take a closer look at the ideas and histories behind it. It could be something you do not quite understand but you think is important to you as a designer.

Option 3: Take a subject that you have been fascinated by but never had the chance to delve more deeply into until now. You may be a fan of a type of work or person and have always wanted to know more. This is the opportunity to go beyond what you already know.

You will have one week to decide on the area you wish to explore and to then find a question or questions that helps you focus your research. Often this might be called the Lead Question and is vital when you are starting any piece of investigative research. Go from the descriptive, What? questions to the more complex and more rewarding How? and Why? ones. You will present your question on the 27.02.2013 to the rest of the group.

A literature/practice review is a piece of discursive prose, not a list describing or summarising one piece of literature or design/art work after another. It is usually a bad sign to see every paragraph beginning with the name of a researcher. Instead, organise the literature review into sections that present themes or identify trends, including relevant theory. You are not trying to list all the material published, but to synthesise and evaluate it according to the guiding concept of your research question. Besides enlarging your knowledge about the topic, writing a literature/practice review lets you gain and demonstrate skills in these areas:

Information seeking: the ability to scan the literature/practice efficiently, using manual or computerized methods, to identify a set of useful website, articles and books.

Critical appraisal: the ability to apply principles of analysis to identify unbiased and valid studies.

Constructing a bibliography: your depth of knowledge about your subject will be reflected by the amount of quality research that can be found in your bibliography.

 Your written text will be constructed along these lines:

1. A Title. As Helen Sword (2012) in her book Stylish Academic Writing argues: “The titles of academic articles are typically abstract, technical, and utterly uninviting, such as: “Social-Organisational Characteristics of Work and Publication Productivity among Academic Scientists in Doctoral-Granting Departments” To send a more welcoming signal to potential readers, try phrasing your title as a question (“Why Are Some Scientists More Productive Than Others?”), a provocative statement (“Productivity Hurts”), a metaphor (“Productivity: Holy Grail or Poisoned Chalice?”) or other memorable phrase (“The Productivity Paradox”). Wherever possible, opt for simple, concrete language. “Snakes on a Plane” is an inviting title; “Aggressive Serpentine Behaviour in a Restrictive Aviation Environment” is not.”

2. An introduction: This should tell the reader Why you have chosen your particular subject. Tell us what motivated you personally to research into this topic. Then tell the reader What the topic is and give a broad outline of what it consists of and the parameters you have set for yourself. Then say How you have gone about this research. What were your analytical methods when reading? How did you decide on what texts to read and what practices to investigate? The say How your have ordered your main body of text.

3. The main literature/practice review: You will start by giving a general introduction to the sources you have found in your research. This is often called the Broader Survey. First briefly explain the broad issues related to your investigation and you do not need to write much about this, just demonstrate that you are aware of the breadth of your subject. Then give an overview of the key texts/designs/art works that you have found the most useful to your thinking about your topic. Then chose two or three of these to go into more detail about and critically appraise and evaluate them in terms of your lead question. Tell us what have they given you and why have they been useful to you.

4. A conclusion: Your conclusion is your chance to have the last word on the subject. The conclusion allows you to have the final say on the issues you have raised in your review, to summarise your thoughts, to demonstrate the importance of your ideas, and to propel your reader to a new view of the subject. It is also your opportunity to make a good final impression and to end on a positive note.

5. An Annotated Bibliography: When you write your annotated bibliography, you will summarise each source of information briefly and describe, analyse/evaluate and situate it in its historical/social/design contexts. This bibliography will have FULL references for each source of information that you have used or looked at during your research. You MUST not just include an URL for on-line sources, there should be an author, date, title, site, URL, when access information included. Include a list of illustrations, which will have the same type of information as in your bibliography.

If in doubt look at: Guide to the Harvard System of Referencing found at:

You will be graded using the Undergraduate Marking Criteria Matrix:

It will be no longer than 3000 words and where appropriate you should include illustrations.

HAND IN DATE: Wednesday 15 May 2013 by 4pm.

 You will hand in a hard copy to the Student Office in E-Block AND email me a single PDF file to:

Here is a Sample Text from a literature review:

In 1984, Jenny Cushman, in her perceptive article, ‘The Chinese community in Australian historiography’ made a passionate plea for historians to move away from studies of Australian attitudes to “relocate the Chinese experience within the Chinese community itself”. She further urged researchers to investigate the way Chinese customs, legal notions and kinship relations were adapted to the Australian physical and social environment. It is tempting to credit many of the succeeding changes to Cushman’s appeal. However, the new approaches must be viewed within the context of the changing tide of historiography and the impact of ‘multiculturalism’.



PowerPoint of  subjectliterature-review.


PDF of Brief: Mapping The Territory Brief



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