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Research 101: Scholarly or Peer-Reviewed Articles

When are peer-reviewed articles appropriate sources?

Peer-reviewed articles are highly specialized reports, usually about original research, written by experts for an audience of experts.

If you already have a lot of knowledge about your research topic, a peer-reviewed article can help you understand the nuances and details of newly tested and debated ideas, theories, methods, and discoveries within a specialized field.

If you are new to your subject, you will need to first build your background knowledge in order to read a peer-reviewed journal well enough to understand it thoroughly.

To understand how to develop your background knowledge, see Kinds of Resources and Where to Search.  If you're not sure about where to start, you can always ask us for more assistance.

How can I find a peer-reviewed article, and how can I tell if an article is peer-reviewed?

Peer-reviewed publications (sometimes called scholarly, academic, or refereed) have gone through a review process by experts in the field before being published. To learn more about the process, please see the video at the bottom of this page, from North Carolina State University Libraries.

1. You can search for only peer-reviewed journal articles in OneSearch by using the peer-reviewed journal filter. OneSearch searches across many databases (collections of journals) at the same time.

You can see explicitly in the details if a journal is peer-reviewed.

2. You can also find peer-reviewed articles in a specific library database. You can search here for databases on particular subjects

Here is an example from a database called Academic Search Premier (EBSCO). Note that in this example "Academic Journal" = Scholarly; "Periodical" = Not Scholarly (in other contexts, the word "periodical" can mean all kinds of publications, including but not only academic journals).

academic search complete results

Here is an example from a database called GenderWatch. Here, the little mortar board (graduation cap) = scholarly; the rolled diploma = dissertation, the newspaper icon = magazine, etc. Note also that you can filter your results for peer-reviewed articles in all databases.

4. Other ways to tell whether an article is peer-reviewed. Examine some characteristics of the article:

  • A peer-reviewed article is longer than just a couple of pages and includes a (usually long) bibliography.
  • Most peer-reviewed articles report on the author's own original research.
  • Note that some articles in peer-reviewed journals are not peer-reviewed articles. Examples of this would be editorials, news items, and book reviews, which do not mecessarily go through the same review process.
  • The publisher's website for the journal should also indicate whether articles go through a peer review process. Find a page that might be called "For Authors" to locate this information.

 

What is peer review? From NCSU Libraries

Differences between types of scientific studies - from TED Ed

Finding a specific journal

If you know the name of the journal you want, you can use our ejournal finder to look up the journal.

e-journal finder

Return to finding and evaluating research sources

Finding and evaluating research sources

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