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Finding Journal Articles 101

Peer-reviewed or Refereed

Peer-reviewed or Refereed

What Does "Peer-reviewed" or "Refereed" Mean?

Peer review is a process that journals use to ensure the articles they publish represent the best scholarship currently available. When an article is submitted to a peer reviewed journal, the editors send it out to other scholars in the same field (the author's peers) to get their opinion on the quality of the scholarship, its relevance to the field, its appropriateness for the journal, etc.

Publications that don't use peer review (Time, Cosmo, Salon) just rely on the judgment of the editors whether an article is up to snuff or not. That's why you can't count on them for solid, scientific scholarship.

Note:This is an entirely different concept from "Review Articles."

How do I know if a journal publishes peer-reviewed articles?

Usually, you can tell just by looking. A scholarly journal is visibly different from other magazines, but occasionally it can be hard to tell, or you just want to be extra-certain. In that case, you turn to Ulrich's Periodical Directory Online. Just type the journal's title into the text box, hit "submit," and you'll get back a report that will tell you (among other things) whether the journal contains articles that are peer reviewed, or, as Ulrich's calls it, Refereed.

They even use a cute little referee's jersey icon:

Remember, even journals that use peer review may have some content that does not undergo peer review. The ultimate determination must be made on an article-by-article basis.

For example, the journal Science publishes a mix of peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed content. Here are two articles from the same issue of Science

This one is not peer-reviewed: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/303/5655/154.1.full
This one is a peer-reviewed research article: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/303/5655/226.full

That is consistent with the Ulrichsweb description of Science, which states, "Provides news of recent international developments and research in all fields of science. Publishes original research results, reviews and short features."

Test these periodicals in Ulrichs:

  • Advances in Dental Research
  • Clinical Anatomy
  • Molecular Cancer Research
  • Journal of Clinical Electrophysiology

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