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Peer review in 3 minutes

You might be asked to cite scholarly or peer-reviewed articles for your papers or projects. These terms are often used interchangeably, but they amount to much the same thing. A scholarly journal is one that contains articles authored by experts and reviewed by other experts. The article will be published only if it passes this peer review process. The "peers" who evaluate articles before they are published are called referees; sometimes you will hear the phrase refereed journal rather than peer-reviewed journal -- don't worry, they mean the same thing.

Peer Review

What is Peer Review?

Peer review is a process where one or more experts (often three), in the same or similar fields, will read an article or paper and examine whether the research methods are valid and whether the conclusions make sense. They might also look at the importance and utility of the research, as well as the quality of the authors’ writing. If the article or paper is not good enough, it will not pass the peer-review process, and it will go unpublished.

However, just because an article is peer-reviewed does not mean it is perfectly accurate and reliable. See for examples of articles where peer-reviewers missed or were unaware of problems with a publication they reviewed.

How can find out if an article is peer reviewed?

1) Go to the journals' website. If the journal is peer reviewed you can often find this information in the sections on author guidance or the about page.

2) Check Ulrichsweb Global Serials Directory (i.e. Ulrich's). Search for a journal (not the article title), if it has a referree-shirt icon next to the journal, that means the journal is refereed (another term for peer review). 

Note: Even though a particular journal is peer-reviewed, some articles, such as news items, editorials, letters to the editor, and book reviews, may not have gone through the peer-review process.

Elements of a peer reviewed article

A  peer-reviewed research article will typically include:

  • a title that provides a mini-synopsis of the research project
  • an abstract --usually a paragraph long -- which provides a summary of the research project and findings
  • an introduction that provides the scope and objectives of the research project
  • a section explaining materials and/or methods used
  • the results that were found -- often in the form of data, tables, graphs, etc.
  • A discussion and/or conclusion describing the significance and relevance of the findings
  • A list of cited references to other publications that the authors consulted in designing and developing their research project

How to find peer-reviewed articles

Many of our databases have a limit function that narrows your search to journals that are peer reviewed.

Try a search in Quick Search and use the "Peer Reviewed Journals" limit function on the left.