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Literature Review Introduction Sample (Civil and Environmental Engineering)

Module by: The Cain Project in Engineering and Professional Communication. E-mail the author

Summary: This example demonstrates how an improved introduction can increase a literature review's accessibility and improve a reader’s understanding of the argument to come. This sample is used with permission.

Title and Author’s Names:

Addressing Water Scarcity

Jennifer Bell

Alessandra Carreon

Matthew Dugger

Instructions: Suppose you’ve seen the title above on the screen or on the cover page. Now read the first paragraph of the introduction below. What exact problem do you think the team investigated? How is that problem itself defined? How will anyone be able to evaluate a solution? Then compare it with the second version.

Example 1: Introductory Summary (Version 1)

Three-fourths of planet earth is covered in water. Of this fraction, over 97 percent is present as salt water in the oceans. The high average salt content of 35,000 mg/L makes this vast resource virtually useless for any practical purpose without extensive treatment. To make a seemingly perplexing situation worse, 3 percent of the remaining water is present as ice at the polar caps and as glaciers, 0.3 percent is present in the atmosphere, and only 0.1 percent may be found in rivers and lakes. The remaining 0.6 percent of earth’s water occurs in groundwater aquifers at depths greater than 800 m (Mallevialle, 1996). How does the world population, then, recover water for drinking, irrigation, or other daily applications? And, of consequence, how much of what is recovered can actually be used?

Example 2: Introductory Summary (Version 2)

Clean drinking water ranks high among priorities for developing countries. United Nations reports emphasize the dire consequences of drought and polluted water supplies for human health and social stability. Because over 97 percent of the earth’s water is present as salt water in the oceans, desalination of ocean water has long been considered a desirable solution to the potable water shortage. However, societies should consider in advance the environmental impacts of resource use policies. This report analyzes three of the most common methods of desalination and compares the economic as well as the environmental consequences of implementing any of these on a large scale. Historically, desalination methods have used energy inefficiently and have had the potential to damage the environment through production of salts and pollutants. However, new technologies and advances in using alternative energy sources now make desalination a feasible choice for producing drinking water in coastal areas and places with brackish water.

Instructions: How did your understanding of the paper change after reading the second version? What could readers expect to learn from this second presentation?

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