Professor Smyth's research explores the relationship between democratic development and electoral competition by focusing on candidates, political parties and party systems in post-Communist states. Her work is based on original data collection that has been supported by the National Science Foundation, Social Science Research Council, Smith Richardson Foundation, and the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research. Her book Candidate Strategies and Electoral Competition in the Russian Federation: Democracy without Foundation (Cambridge 2006) explains the failure of Russian democracy in terms of the factors that impeded cooperation among candidates and party leaders and failed to produce a viable opposition to the ruling party. Her study of Russian party organizations examines the inability of parties' to articulate coherent policy positions or frame policy debates.
Her current work on party and party system consolidation across the post-Communist states examines the processes that produce congruence between key political alignments or power centers and partisan competition. Professor Smyth's work has been published in Politics and Society, Comparative Politics, and Comparative Political Studies. Her teaching interests extend from her research. She has taught courses on Russian and Soviet Politics, Democracy and Elections, Comparative Democratic Institutions, Comparative Parties and Party Systems, Voter Turnout, and West European Politics. She has taught at Penn State University and Harvard University before coming to Indiana University in 2006.