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POLT 595: Smart Politics (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

Writing LIterature Reviews

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 those 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, Information for Authors, or Submission Guidelines (Example)

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)

Other Types of Publications

Other types of publications you may 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
  • Grey literature - material of a scholarly nature produced outside the usual publication channels such as peer-reviewed journals; it is generally not commercially published. Grey literature can include
    • government publications
    • conference proceedings
    • dissertations and theses
    • reports from think thanks, IGOs (intergovernmental organizations), NGOs (non-governmental organizations)
    • working papers or policy briefs
    • technical reports
    • spatial data