Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

HON 390

The Parlor

Read the following paragraph.  Then answer the questions below it. [1]

“Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer [her]; another comes to your defense; another aligns himself against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending upon the quality of your ally's assistance. However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress.”[2]

Questions (click on question for answer):

1. What would happen if you walked into this parlor, marched right into the center of the room and started spouting your ideas?

2. What if you wandered in, heard one person speak, and then left? What would you be able to say about the discussion?

3. How does the Burkean Parlor relate to writing a literature review?


[1] Use of the Burkean Parlor and questions was suggested by Erika Bennett (Reference Librarian, Capella University) on the Information Literacy discussion list of the American Library Association, ILI-L, on 13 February 2009.

 [2]  K. Burke, The philosophy of literary form; studies in symbolic action. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1941, pp. 110-111.


Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students

The following video created by the North Carolina State University Libraries answers the questions:

  • What is a literature review?
  • What purpose does it serve in research?
  • What should you expect when writing one?

It provides a general, big picture overview of conducting a literature review.

A HD version of the video with closed captioning can be viewed at at the link below.

Karl E. Mundt Library, Dakota State University, Madison, South Dakota 57042