What is Peer Review?
Your instructor may want you to use "peer reviewed" articles as sources for your paper. Or you may be asked to find "academic," "scholarly," or "refereed" articles. What do these terms mean?
Let's start with the terms academic and scholarly, which are synonyms. An academic or scholarly journal is one intended for a specialized or expert audience. Journals like this exist in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. Examples include Nature, Journal of Sociology, and Journal of American Studies. Scholarly/academic journals exist to help scholars communicate their latest research and ideas to each other; they are written "by experts for experts."
Most scholarly/academic journals are peer reviewed; another synonym for peer reviewed is refereed. Before an article is published in a peer-reviewed journal, it's evaluated for quality and significance by several specialists in the same field, who are "peers" of the author. The article may go through several revisions before it finally reaches publication.
Magazines like Time or Scientific American, newspapers, (most) books, government documents, and websites are not peer-reviewed, though they may be thoroughly edited and fact-checked. Articles in scholarly journals (in printed format or online) usually ARE peer-reviewed.
How can you tell if an article is both scholarly and peer-reviewed?Read more
Doing good research requires different skills than searching. Searching online encourages ways of thinking that can create false expectations and poor research results. Here are a few tips:
- Slow down.
- Look at the advanced search page
- Iterative searching
- Learn from the search results
- Too many results? Too few?
- Look at citations from good sources
- Various keywords
- Various subjects
- Multiple databases (information silos!)
Critically Analyzing Information Sources (Cornell)
Searching for scholarly sources
- choose the right database
- limit results to "peer-reviewed" sources
And When You Find It...Evaluate It!
You already know that you should evaluate anything you find on the Internet. Here are some reminders of what to look for.