11.S945 | Fall 2013 | Graduate
Urbanizing China: A Reflective Dialogue


Assignments for this course include the in-class idea notes and the literature synthesis. The requirements for both are detailed below.

In-class Idea Notes

These notes are completed and submitted at the end of each class session. Ten minutes at the end of each class is allocated for everyone to write or draw a half-page idea note reflecting on the dialogue that has taken place. Students may literally write or draw anything in response, and everyone receives a full score (one point per class session) as long as the note is submitted. A few ideas of what to write include:

  • What does the talk inspire you to think about? Either as a practitioner, as a research, or as a citizen.
  • How does this particular talk connect to other topics in the term, if any?
  • Do you have any personal experience related to the discussion?
  • Did the dialogue change any of your prior notions about China? How so?
  • What if you were the presenter? Is there anything that you would do different?
  • On data, method and research design: Is there anything you have learned as research methods, to whatever depths that one class can offer?
  • Are there any ideas relevant to your term project topics?

Literature Synthesis

Each pair of students will be assigned to one of the literature synthesis candidate topics to write and present a literature synthesis for China’s urbanization. (The topic of the literature review may be the same as that of the team project.) The deliverables include:

  • Presentation: 15 minutes including questions and answers
  • Written report: 3000 words
  • Students will write their reports individually but present them in pairs in a form of a debate; one student will focus on the positive perspective and the other will focus on the negative perspective.

How to Write a Literature Synthesis

  1. Purpose

    The purpose of a literature synthesis is to add value. It is not simply a catalog of papers you have read.

  2. Stages / components

    1. Problem formulation: overview of the subject, issue or theory; clarify the objectives of the literature review

    2. Literature search: Google Scholar, Web of Science, MIT Vera, Google, TRB Online

    3. Data categorization and evaluation
      Four typical structures of organization:

      • Chronological (by trend)
      • Thematic
      • Methodological
      • Opinion: support, opposition, neutral, alternative perspective

      Critical appraisal of papers:

      • Contribution: method, data, theory
      • Impact on practice
      • Limitations
    4. Data analysis, interpretation and synthesis

      • Similarity of papers: Identify trends and patterns
      • Differences between papers: Resolve conflicts
      • Relationships between papers
      • New perspectives / new interpretations
      • Gaps in the existing literature
      • Point the way forward for further research
    5. Conclusions

  3. Bibliography
    Please provide full reference information and follow the APA Style®. You can find a basic introduction to the APA citation style from Concordia University Libraries.

  4. How to start

  • Read other papers’ literature review sections and follow good styles.
  • Identify a few core papers (e.g., 7–15) and supplemental sources (e.g., 20–50).
  • Read the core papers carefully and summarize each separately as the starting point.
  • Follow Section 2 (“Stages/components” as detailed above).
Course Info
As Taught In
Fall 2013
Learning Resource Types
group_work Projects
notes Lecture Notes
assignment Presentation Assignments
assignment Written Assignments