You will very likely be tasked, at some point during your college career, with locating “peer-reviewed” or scholarly articles for an assignment.
1. What does “peer review” mean and how do I find peer reviewed material?
In a nutshell: “peer review” is a process whereby journal content is checked over, before it’s published, by a group of experts in the field that the article deals with, to make sure the methodology used is credible and the research has value to the the larger field of study, discipline or profession. In other words, a group of the author’s “peers” review the article to make sure it is of value. You may sometimes see other terms used in place of “peer review,” such as “scholarly” or “academic.” Also note that a journal can be considered peer-reviewed but that some content in that journal (such as an editorial or book review) may not have gone through the peer review process.
You can find a much better description via this video tutorial: Peer Review in 5 Minutes.
2. How do I find or recognize if something is peer-reviewed?
Unfortunately there is no single, easy, fool-proof way to identify if a specific result you find when searching is peer-reviewed or not. You can check to see if there is an acknowledgment or ‘thank you,’ usually near the beginning or end of the article, demonstrating the author’s appreciation to the ‘peers’ who did the reviewing. Also, there are some limit functions in many library databases that can do most of this work for you, and failing that, there are some other ways to tell if it might be peer reviewed:
First, several more specialized databases in the library contain ALL peer-reviewed journals (but, editorials and reviews from those journals aren’t necessarily peer-reviewed), including:
Second, many library databases contain an option on the search page or the results page to limit your results to just those from peer-reviewed journals. Here are some examples from our largest databases:
Third, find the home page for the journal on the web and see if it mentions if a peer-review process is used (look for something like “About this Journal” or “Author Guidelines”).
If you’re unsure, you can always Ask a Librarian!