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Biology - Research Basics

This guide is an outline of recommended resources and a research companion helping you to identify and successfully utilize biological research.


What does peer review mean?

Peer-Review or Scholarly, Refereed or Academic. What do all of these terms have in common? Well, they mean the same thing - they refer to articles or scholarly publications that usually represent original research and have gone through a rigorous process of acceptance into the scholarly conversation. This rigorous review process means that a group of the author's scholarly peers, usually experts in the field and area of research, have critically analyzed the research methods, presentation, and background knowledge and deemed it relevant enough, timely, significant and appropriate to add to the scholarly conversation through publication in a specific journal.

Peer-Reviewed Article Characteristics:

  • Original research articles into sections such as abstract, introduction, methods, results, and discussion
  • Citations list will be quite long and formal, though many journals require their own unique citation style
  • Terminology will likely be advanced, as it is written with the peer researcher in mind as an audience

Identifying Peer-Reviewed Journals:

Finding peer-reviewed journals can be a great way to locate peer-reviewed resources, but be careful as many peer-reviewed or refereed journals also publish content that has not undergone the rigorous peer review process, such as:

  • Letters
  • Review articles
  • Book reviews
  • Opinions
  • News
  • Editorial material

UlrichsWeb is a resource that publishes basic information about almost every serial resources. A serial resource is any item that comes out on a regular basis and can include newspapers, magazines, trade publications and scholarly journals. UlrichsWeb lists whether or not a journal is considered peer-reviewed. Here’s how you can search for it:

  1. Find a journal title or ISSN (international serial standard number), and copy it
  2. Paste the ISSN or the journal title in the search box at UlrichsWeb
  3. Note the record will appear as a line in a list of results
  4. One of the first columns will either contain a referee jersey (black and white striped shirt) or not. The referee jersey is the indicator of a peer-reviewed journal.

**Tip from your librarian - If you can, use the ISSN to search. It will save you time and produce much more exact results. Using the journal title will reveal just how many serial resources there are in the world! 

Peer-reviewed or refereed articles are, for the most part, research articles presenting primary research findings. Some databases will have a selection box somewhere on the search screen to limit your search to peer-reviewed articles. 

Academic Search Complete Example:

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