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Research 101

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.

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

e-journal finder

You can search for 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.

results list on onesearch

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

annotation of results list

When you click on "Available Online::

Available online button

you will be shown an info page that shows you subject headings, a description, and links to click on to get the :

screenshot of article description

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 Complete (EBSCO).

Note that in this example "Academic Journal" = scholarly journals (the word "periodical" usually means all kinds of publications, including scholarly journals, but this database uses "periodical" to mean not scholarly).

academic search complete results

Here is an example from a database called GenderWatch.  In some databases, you can specify for peer-reviewed articles even before you search:

Initial search GenderWatch

Please note some of the other tools you can use on the results list. Different databases will format things slightly differently, but they all have similar tools to help you get the citation, email the article to yourself, or see the abstract (summary) of an article.  

Find it! @CUNY

Your results may show this button:

Find it at CUNY button

This means we may or may not have access to the article. You won't know however until you click it! Once you do, if we have access, you will see this kind of information:

screenshot of article description showing "view online" box with links to several databases 

Exclamation Point IconThese links will all go to the same article. It's common for the same article to be collected in more than one database. You can click on any of the links here to get to your article. 

 

Other ways to tell whether an article is peer-reviewed:

  • 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 necessarily 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.

 

Video from from NCSU Libraries: What is peer review?

Video from TED Ed: Differences between types of scientific studies

Video from Yavapai College: Advanced database search strategies