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SW 601: Research Methods in Social Work (UNH Durham)

Information and resources for Prof. Kat Brewer's course

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 LIierautres Reviews:

Scholarly/Academic & Peer Reviewed Articles; Grey Literature

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).

Grey literature is material of a scholarly nature produced outside the usual publication channels. Grey literature can include government publications, think tank reports, conference proceedings, studies from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as Doctors Without Borders, evaluation reports, technical reports, etc. (Example)

Grey literature can be harder to identify and find because it often isn't formally published or indexed in the databases used to find scholarly literature. Searching online, identifying likely producers of grey literature, and checking lists of references in books or articles are ways to help identify grey literature.


Is an Article Peer Reviewed?


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letters to the editor, book reviews, news items, and other short works without listed references are typically not peer reviewed the way more substantive articles are.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