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PSYC 502: Research Methods in Psychology (UNH Durham)

What a LIterature Review Does

Makes you an informed researcher/applicant

Provides perspective by situating your work within the knowledge base (theory & practice) of your field

Supports your research idea/proposal or identifies a gap needing further research

Provides ideas for research design; for example, quantitative or qualitative approaches or instruments to use

Provides credibility to grant proposals

More on Literature Reviews:

Scholarly/Academic & Peer Reviewed Articles

Scholarly (aka academic) articles are written by and for academics, researchers, and experts in the specific topic or broader subject area of the article. Typically involves commercial or professional association publishers.

Peer reviewed (aka refereed) articles are those scholarly articles which have been reviewed prior to publication by other experts in the topic of the article. Often reviewers are external (not members of the journal's editorial staff or board).

Peer Review?


  • the database record for the article, which sometimes indicates whether a journal uses peer review
  • the journal website, especially under About Us or Information for Authors (Example)

Note: Not everything in a journal is peer reviewed; letters to the editor, book reviews, news items, and other short works without listed references are typically not peer reviewed the way more substantive articles are.

Article Purposes/Types

Reports original research or experimentation

  • Empirical: uses data collected by the article's authors themselves or by others (for example, US Census data) (Example)

Critically surveys and analyzes the current state of published research on a particular topic; doesn't include original research

  • Includes narrative literature reviews, systematic review, meta-analysis, and meta-synthesis (Example)

Describes one or more theories, frameworks, models, etc. and tends not to include empirical data 

  • May describe development of a theoretical approach, compare theories, or discuss issues surrounding a theory (Example)

Comments on or offers a perspective or opinion on a topic; doesn't require original research

  • May appear as an article in a column, editorial, letter to the editor, etc. (Example)

Books & Dissertations

Other types of publications you will encounter:

  • Book - generally monographs or edited books
    • Monograph - scholarly, single volume that treats one topic in depth; often has a single author
    • Edited book - typically a collection of chapters written by different authors on the same subject. There's usually an editor who has put the whole book together
  • Dissertation - usually written as a requirement for a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) degree. Often very lengthy and on a specific topic or research project.
  • Thesis - a shorter work typically written as a requirement for a master's degree.
  • Conference proceeding - a published collection of papers presented at a conference. Conference papers often report very recent or ongoing research; sometimes feedback is obtained from the audience.