What is a Literature Review?
A literature review is a section of a scholarly article or book (usually toward the beginning) which summarizes and evaluates previous scholarship.
The purpose of a literature review is to give an accurate and complete accounting of the current state of knowledge for whichever research question you are attempting to answer. It is an essential feature of scholarship because without it the reader cannot judge how well-informed you are or how orginal your approach might be.
Most academic disciplines are included in our Annual Reviews online subscriptions. Take a look at the Annual Reveiw of Political Science [link may not work outside campus network]. Looking at them can give you a sense of how it is done.
What you end up writing will be different in two ways.
1) You should have a much narrower focus. These attempt to cover very broad topics.
2) You should delve back a number of years to learn everything you can about your topic. These usually only try to account for what has happened over the last year.
What is Peer Review?
It is the quality control system for scholarship. It means that articles in a peer-reviewed journal must be scrutinized by experts before they are published. SYNONYMS = 'academic', 'juried', 'refereed', 'scholarly'.
How can you tell when something is peer-reviewed?
1) When you are looking at a print copy, of an entire issue of a journal, the editorial board of scholars with academic credentials and institutional affiliations will be listed somewhere. These are the 'peers' that review each published article.
2) Use a check box limit in your database search (when available).
3) Consult Ulrich's Periodicals Directory. (Search on the source title NOT the article title.) An icon of a referee's jersey will indicate that the journal is peer-reviewed.
The encyclopedia links elsewhere in this guide are an excellent starting point to begin formulating a theoretical review for your topic.
The Library of Congress Subject Heading for Political Theory is: