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Identify Sources: Primary or Secondary/Scholarly or Popular/Peer-Reviewed: Peer-Reviewed?

How to identify sources

What is this page for?

Help with identifying when a source is PEER-REVIEWED

Peer Review in 3 Minutes

Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution from libncsu

Features of a Peer-Reviewed Article

When you are determining whether or not the article you found is a peer-reviewed article, you should consider the following.

Does the article have the following features?

Image of the first page of a peer-reviewed article. These items are highlighted: Been published in a scholarly journal.   An overall serious, thoughtful tone.   More than 10 pages in length (usually, but not always).   An abstract (summary) on the first page.  Organization by headings such as Introduction, Literature Review, and Conclusion.  Citations throughout and a bibliography or reference list at the end.  Credentialed authors, usually affiliated with a research institute or university.

What does Peer Reviewed mean?

A primary difference between scholarly journals and other types of journals and magazines is that articles in these journals undergo a "peer review" process before they are published. 

What is the process for an article to become "peer-reviewed"?

  1. The author of the article must submit it to the journal editor who forwards the article to experts in the field. Because the reviewers specialize in the same scholarly area as the author, they are considered the author’s peers (hence “peer review”).
  2. These impartial reviewers are charged with carefully evaluating the quality of the submitted manuscript.
  3. The peer reviewers check the manuscript for accuracy and assess the validity of the research methodology and procedures.
  4. If appropriate, they suggest revisions. If they find the article lacking in scholarly validity and rigor, they reject it.

Because a peer-reviewed journal will not publish articles that fail to meet the standards established for a given discipline, peer-reviewed articles that are accepted for publication exemplify the best research practices in a field.

Also consider...

  • Is the journal in which you found the article published or sponsored by a professional scholarly society, professional association, or university academic department?
  • Does it describe itself as a peer-reviewed publication? (To know that, check the journal's website). 
  • Did you find a citation for it in one of the databases that includes scholarly publications? (Academic Search Complete, ProQuest, Science Direct, etc.)?  Read the database description to see if it includes scholarly publications.
  • In the database, did you limit your search to scholarly or peer-reviewed publications? 
  • Is the topic of the article narrowly focused and explored in depth?
  • Is the article based on either original research or authorities in the field (as opposed to personal opinion)?
  • Is the article written for readers with some prior knowledge of the subject?
  • Is your field in social science, natural science, or technology?
  • Is the article divided into sections with headings like the ones listed below?
  • Introduction
  • Theory or Background
  • Methods
  • Discussion
  • Literature review
  • Subjects
  • Results
  • Conclusion
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