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Research Strategies: Peer Review

Peer Review

What Do You Mean by Peer Reviewed Sources?

What's so great about peer review?

Peer reviewed articles are often considered the most reliable and reputable sources in that field of study. Peer reviewed articles have undergone review (hence the "peer-review") by fellow experts in that field, as well as an editorial review process. The purpose of this is to ensure that, as much as possible, the finished product meets the standards of the field. 

Peer reviewed publications are one of the main ways researchers communicate with each other. 

Most library databases have features to help you discover articles from scholarly journals. Most articles from scholarly journals have gone through the peer review process. Many scholarly journals will also publish book reviews or start off with an editorial, which are not peer reviewed - so don't be tricked!

So that means I can turn my brain off, right?

Nope! You still need to engage with what you find. Are there additional scholarly sources with research that supports the source you've found, or have you encountered an outlier in the research? Have others been able to replicate the results of the research? Is the information old and outdated? Was this study on toothpaste (for example) funded by Colgate? 

You're engaging with the research - ultimately, you decide what belongs in your project, and what doesn't. You get to decide if a source is relevant or not. It's a lot of responsibility - but it's a lot of authority, too.

Check Yourself!

Recognizing Scholarly Articles

Scholarly, Popular, or Trade?

Practice identifying whether a source is scholarly, popular, or a trade source.

Popular vs. Scholarly

(Source: Peabody Library)

Popular vs. Scholarly

time magazine cover     journal of popular culture cover    Broadcasting & Cable cover

Popular vs. Scholarly Articles

When looking for articles to use in your assignment, you should realize that there is a difference between "popular" and "scholarly" articles.

Popular sources, such as newspapers and magazines, are written by journalists or others for general readers (for example, Time, Rolling Stone, and National Geographic).

Scholarly sources are written for the academic community, including experts and students, on topics that are typically footnoted and based on research (for example, American Literature or New England Review). Scholarly journals are sometimes referred to as "peer-reviewed," "refereed" or "academic."

How do you find scholarly or "peer-reviewed" journal articles?

The option to select scholarly or peer-reviewed articles is typically available on the search page of each database. Just check the box or select the option. You can also search Ulrich's Periodical Directory (link provided below) to see if the journal is Refereed / Peer-reviewed.  

Popular Sources (Magazines & Newspapers)
Inform and entertain the general public.

  • Are often written by journalists or professional writers for a general audience
  • Use language easily understood by general readers
  • Rarely give full citations for sources
  • Written for the general public
  • Tend to be shorter than journal articles

Scholarly or Academic Sources (Journals & Scholarly Books)
Disseminate research and academic discussion among professionals in a discipline. 

  • Are written by and for faculty, researchers or scholars (chemists, historians, doctors, artists, etc.)
  • Uses scholarly or technical language
  • Tend to be longer articles about research
  • Include full citations for sources 
  • Are often refereed or peer reviewed (articles are reviewed by an editor and other specialists before being accepted for publication)
  • Publications may include book reviews and editorials which are not considered scholarly articles

Trade Publications
Neither scholarly or popular sources, but could be a combination of both. Allows practitioners in specific industries to share market and production information that improves their businesses.

  • Not peer reviewed. Usually written by people in the field or with subject expertise
  • Shorter articles that are practical
  • Provides information about current events and trends