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Math 797, Senior Seminar: Literature Search (UNH Durham)

Resources and notes to help you find publications for your literature review.

What a Literature Search Does

Builds awareness and knowledge of topic.

Hones your research focus.

Identifies works on your topic of interest.

Provides the opportunity to select, save, and organize citations.

Collects relevant material.

What a Literature Review Does

Makes you an informed researcher/applicant through analysis and synthesis

Provides perspective for your audience 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 research or grant proposals

Scholarly & 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.

Peer reviewed (aka refereed) articles are a subset of scholarly articles.  They have been reviewed before publication by other experts in the field (peers of the author). Often reviewers are external (not members of the journal's editorial staff or board). (Graphic)

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letters to the editor, book reviews, news items, and other short works without listed references are typically not peer reviewed the way more substantive articles are.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 Types

Reports original research or experimentation

  • Empirical: analyzes 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)

Responsible Conduct of Research & Scholarly Activity