In certain humanity fields articles are published without headings like Introduction, Methods, or Results. They usually do not describe literature research methodology (as it is probably always the same - reading and writing), but they do include their point of view on certain topics, which looks like a Conclusion section in a paper from the life sciences field. So my question is, if we have a way to distinguish between literature review and research paper or do we have to respect how certain journals label it?

  • The words 'knowledge' or 'research' or 'justification' do not have a single meaning. Rather, these words have multiple related meanings that apply differently in different fields. You should not assume that what creates 'knowledge' in your field looks anything like what creates 'knowledge' in a different field, and you should not attempt to do 'research' in a field without understanding what 'research' means in that field; it may be very different from what you think. To do otherwise is not just disrepecting a journal but disrepecting an entire field of study. Jan 30 at 19:09
  • What do you mean by "distinguish between literature review and research paper"? Are you assuming that in the humanities there are some "literature review" papers and there are some "research" papers and that these are different things? I'm asking sincerely; I am trying to understand what you are really looking for. Or are you asking about the "literature review" section of regular research papers?
    – Tripartio
    Feb 8 at 11:07
  • @Tripartio Yes, I am kind of assuming that in the humanities there are some "literature review" papers (LRP) and there are some "research" papers (RP). Recently I read 10.1080/02665433.2020.1844042. Programmatically, I cannot determine whether it's an LRP or an RP. So can this article be called research because the author makes some of her own conclusions in it? Or how would I know it was research if I didn't know it came from a journal?
    – Juandev
    Feb 19 at 8:49
  • I am not a humanities researcher, so I do not know their various genres. Are you sure that they regularly distinguish between LRPs and RPs in general? In my field (information systems), that distinction indeed exists; one way that the distinction is clearly in our disciplinary culture is that many journals describe these as distinct genres in their "about this journal" or "information for authors" pages. Have you found any such clear distinctions in some humanities journals? My point is that if you are looking for a distinction that does not exist in their minds, then you won't get anywhere.
    – Tripartio
    Feb 19 at 16:13
  • I need to note that we're talking about "humanities journals" as if this is a homogenous thing, which it most probably is not. I would expect that different humanities disciplines vary widely. Some might distinguish between LRPs and RPs while others might not. But I don't know.
    – Tripartio
    Feb 19 at 16:14

1 Answer 1


I think that this is subtle and sometimes a judgement call. The issue is that in the humanities study of the literature may be research in itself. A simple example is when the "research" is to study discrepancies or inconsistencies in the work of an author or some set of authors. The "conclusions" are logical in nature and the evidence is the words and phrases of the original works.

So, a literature review is about "what the literature says" and research into the literature is more than that in some way.

If a journal characterizes a paper one way or the other then it is likely a judgement made by the reviewers based on their own knowledge and experience. One needn't make a hypothesis in such a paper, nor organize it in the same fashion as a statistical study. But it could still give insight into a body of thought.

Pure math is another field, where the organization is different from what you see elsewhere. In particular, "methods" is generally understood to mean logical proof and so doesn't need to be stated for most papers.

  • So if the study of the literature is research itself, and we can assume that everybody does this research the same way (reading sources), we don't need a special section to describe "Materials (books) and methods (reading, compiling)", "Results (notes in the notepad)," and "Analysis (our brain processes)"? Afterward, humanity researchers mix the "Introduction (literature review)" and "Conclusion (their thoughts)" into their article, which is less technically structured?
    – Juandev
    Feb 19 at 8:59

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