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Answered By: Woodruff Library Reference Last Updated: Jan 04, 2022     Views: 46707

Peer-reviewed articles, also known as scholarly or refereed articles, are:

  • Are written by experts in the field
  • Are written for other researchers/scholars
  • Are reviewed by the scholar's peers to determine whether they are high-quality pieces of work
  • Use terms and language that are discipline-specific
  • Usually include in-text citations and a bibliography of cited sources
  • May include graphs, charts, etc., related to the topic
  • Are published by a professional organization or society, university, research center, or scholarly press

Strategies for finding peer-reviewed articles

  • Use  a library database  and limit your search to only peer-reviewed articles . Many of the databases are limited to scholarly publications OR allow you to limit your search to peer-reviewed articles.
  • Search Articles+ for peer-reviewed articles

Learn if a journal is peer-reviewed

  • Some databases allow you to click on the journal title to get more information about it.  
  • Or check the journal's website to see whether or not the journal uses a peer-review process in its publishing practices.
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3. Health Data Sources

Peer-reviewed journal articles have gone through an evaluation process in which journal editors and other expert scholars critically assess the quality and scientific merit of the article and its research. Articles that pass this process are published in the peer-reviewed literature. Peer-reviewed journals may include the research of scholars who have collected their own data using an experimental study design, survey, or various other study methodologies. They also present the work of researchers who have performed novel analyses of existing data sources, such as the ones described in this section.

Leading Health-Related Journals

  • The New England Journal of Medicine
  • Health Affairs
  • Epidemiologic Reviews
  • American Journal of Public Health
  • The Milbank Quarterly
  • Medical Care

There are several benefits of using peer-reviewed literature, including: the process ensures that the quality of the research and validity of the findings are high, information is available on highly-detailed subject matter and complex analyses, and it is easy to search through millions of articles with online databases.

There are limitations to using peer-reviewed literature, however, including: highly-detailed and complex analyses may be irrelevant for users who are simply searching for descriptive statistics and basic measures of public health; may require a subscription to journals or databases to access articles (which can be costly for individuals, although many universities and other organizations provide access to students and faculty); and may be prone to publication bias due to the fact that studies that report significant statistical results are published in favor of those that yield negative or null results.

Peer-reviewed literature is accessible via academic databases that enable users to execute searches across multiple journals. Here are a few examples:

  • PubMed® (including MEDLINE®)
  • Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) Database (EBSCOHost)
  • ScienceDirect
  • Health Business Full Text (EBSCOHost)
  • American Psychological Association PSYCInfo
  • Web of Science
  • Academic Search Complete (EBSCOHost)

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How to Recognize Peer-Reviewed (Refereed) Journals

Find all the information you need on recognizing and citing sources for your research papers. 

In many cases, professors will require that students utilize articles from “peer-reviewed” journals. Sometimes the phrases “refereed journals” or “scholarly journals” are used to describe the same type of journals. But what are peer-reviewed (or refereed or scholarly) journal articles, and why do faculty require their use?

Three Categories of Information Resources

  • Newspapers and magazines containing news - Articles are written by reporters who may or may not be experts in the field of the article. Consequently, articles may contain incorrect information.
  • Journals containing articles written by academics and/or professionals - Although the articles are written by “experts,” any particular “expert” may have some ideas that are really “out there!”
  • Peer-reviewed (refereed or scholarly) journals - Articles are written by experts and are reviewed by several other experts in the field before the article is published in the journal in order to ensure the article’s quality. (The article is more likely to be scientifically valid, reach reasonable conclusions, etc.) In most cases, the reviewers do not know who the author of the article is, so the article succeeds or fails on its own merit, not the reputation of the expert.

Helpful hint!

Not all information in a peer-reviewed journal is actually refereed or reviewed. For example, editorials, letters to the editor, book reviews and other types of information don’t count as articles, and may not be accepted by your professor.

How do you determine whether an article qualifies as a peer-reviewed journal article?

First, you need to be able to identify which journals are peer-reviewed. There are generally four methods for doing this

  • Limiting a database search to peer-reviewed journals only. Some databases allow you to limit searches for articles to peer-reviewed journals only. For example, Academic Search Complete has this feature on the initial search screen - click on the pertinent box to limit the search. In some databases, you may have to go to an “advanced” or “expert” search screen to do this. Remember, many databases do not allow you to limit your search in this way.


  • Locate the journal in the Library or online, then identify the most current entire year’s issues.
  • Locate the masthead of the publication. This oftentimes consists of a box towards either the front or the end of the periodical and contains publication information such as the editors of the journal, the publisher, the place of publication, the subscription cost and similar information.
  • Does the journal say that it is peer-reviewed? If so, you’re done! If not, move on to step d.
  • Check in and around the masthead to locate the method for submitting articles to the publication.  If you find information similar to “to submit articles, send three copies…”, the journal is probably peer-reviewed. In this case, you are inferring that the publication is then going to send multiple copies of the article to the journal’s reviewers. This may not always be the case, so relying upon this criterion alone may prove inaccurate.
  • If you do not see this type of statement in the first issue of the journal that you look at, examine the remaining journals to see if this information is included. Sometimes publications will include this information in only a single issue a year.
  • Is it scholarly, using technical terminology? Does the article format approximate the following - abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, and references? Are the articles written by scholarly researchers in the field that the periodical pertains to? Is advertising non-existent, or kept to a minimum? Are there references listed in footnotes or bibliographies? If you answered yes to all these questions, the journal may very well be peer-reviewed. This determination would be strengthened by having met the previous criterion of a multiple-copies submission requirement. If you answered these questions no , the journal is probably not peer-reviewed.
  • Find the official website on the internet, and check to see if it states that the journal is peer-reviewed. Be careful to use the official site (often located at the journal publisher’s website), and, even then, information could potentially be “inaccurate.”

If you have used the previous four methods in trying to determine if an article is from a peer-reviewed journal and are still unsure, speak to your instructor.

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Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

  • What is Peer-Review?

What does a Peer Reviewed Journal Article Look Like?

  • How do I find Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles?
  • How to I verify that an article is Peer-Reviewed?

peer reviewed research article

  • Full Article This is full article from the first page above.

Things to look for in order to tell if the article is peer-reviewed:

1.  Author credentials : Look for degrees, school affiliations and contact information. When in doubt, look them up. 2.  Publisher : Usually the journal will be published by a scholarly society, university press, or major scholarly publisher like Elsevier or Springer.

3.  References : The authors of peer-reviewed articles will show you where they got their information from, usually at the end of the article. 4. Format:  These articles generally follow a format of abstract, introduction, literature reviews, methods, results, limitations, and conclusions. This will vary by discipline. 5.  Language : The authors of peer-reviewed articles are writing for experts in their field, so the language is discipline-specific and can be difficult for an average person to read.

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Library FAQs

How do I find scholarly, peer reviewed journal articles?

  • What is the difference between scholarly and peer reviewed journals?
  • How do I determine if a particular journal is peer reviewed?
  • What are empirical articles? How do I locate them in NCU Library?
  • Are dissertations and theses considered scholarly or peer-reviewed resources?
  • Are books peer reviewed? If so, how can I tell or how can I find them?
  • Are law reviews considered to be scholarly and peer-reviewed?
  • Are government sources considered to be scholarly?

Scholarly journals are journals which are well respected for the information and research they provide on a particular subject. They are written by experts in a particular field or discipline and their purpose is to advance the ongoing body of work within their discipline. These articles might present original research data and findings, or take a position on a key question within the field. They can be difficult to read, because their intended audience is other experts and academics, but they are the capstone when it comes to authoritative information.

Scholarly journals are oftentimes peer reviewed or refereed . A peer-reviewed or refereed article has gone through a process where other scholars in the author’s field or discipline critically assess a draft of the article. The actual evaluations are similar to editing notes, where the author receives detailed and constructive feedback from the peer experts. However, these reviews are not made available publicly. For an example peer review of a fictitious article, see the Sample Peer-Review of a Fictitious Manuscript link below.

Please keep in mind that not all scholarly journals go through the peer-review process. However, it is safe to assume that a peer-reviewed journal is also scholarly. In short, “scholarly” means the article was written by an expert for an audience of other experts, researchers or students. “Peer-reviewed” takes it one step further and means the article was reviewed and critiqued by the author’s peers who are experts in the same subject area. The vast majority of scholarly articles are peer reviewed.

However, because there are many different types of peer-review, be sure to evaluate the resource itself to determine if it is suitable for your research needs. For example, law reviews may indicate that they are peer-reviewed, but their "peers" are other students. Please see the Law Reviews FAQ below for more explanation.

If you need help determining whether a scholarly journal is peer reviewed or refereed we recommend using the Ulrichsweb database. Ulrichsweb is the authoritative source of bibliographic and publisher information on more than 300,000 periodicals of all types, including academic and scholarly journals. Find out more about how to use and access Ulrichsweb through NU Library by watching the Ulrichsweb Quick Tutorial Video (link below).

For additional instruction on scholarly vs. peer reviewed journals, please see the Library's Scholarly vs. Peer-Reviewed Journals Quick Tutorial Video (link below).

For information about how to limit your database searches to scholarly/peer-journals, see the following FAQ:

  • Sample Peer-Review of a Fictitious Manuscript
  • Law Reviews FAQ
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  • Scholarly vs. Peer-Reviewed Journals Quick Tutorial Video

Peer Review Process

For scholarly information on the peer review process, see the following resources:

  • Chenail, R. (2008). Peer review. In L. M. Given (Ed.), The SAGE encyclopedia of qualitative research methods (pp. 605-606). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd. doi: 10.4135/9781412963909.n313
  • Constantine, N. (2008). Peer review process. In S. Boslaugh (Ed.), Encyclopedia of epidemiology (Vol. 2, pp. 795-796). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd. doi: 10.4135/9781412953948.n343
  • Mark, M. & Chua, P. (2005). Peer review. In S. Mathison (Ed.), Encyclopedia of evaluation (pp. 299-299). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd. doi: 10.4135/9781412950558.n404

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peer reviewed research article

Peer review (also known as refereeing) is a process where other scholars in the same field (peers) evaluate the quality of a research paper before it's published. The aim is to ensure that the work is rigorous and coherent, is based on sound research, and adds to what we already know. 

The purpose of peer review is to maintain the integrity of research and to ensure that only valid and quality research is published.

To learn more about the peer review process see:

  • What is peer review? Comprehensive overview of the peer review process and different types of peer review from Elsevier

Your lecturers will often require you to use information from academic journal articles that are peer reviewed (also known as refereed).

Peer-reviewed articles are credible sources of information. The articles have been written and reviewed by trusted experts in the field, and represent the best scholarship and research currently available.

Explanation of peer reviewed articles and journals (YouTube, 1m51s)

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Peer review is at the core of scholarly publishing. It serves to assess the quality, validity, and originality of the articles submitted for publication. The primary purpose of this process is to keep scientific integrity and filter out lower-quality content. As an article undergoes this type of assessment, it becomes more valuable. After all, the importance of this method for validating research is backed by the fact that it has been in continuous use for over three centuries.

This article shares more details about what peer review is, how it's done, and how to find peer-reviewed articles.

Peer Review

What are Peer-Reviewed Articles?

Peer-reviewed or refereed journal articles are scholarly publications that undergo a special quality assessment. A journal’s editorial board teams up with field experts to evaluate each manuscript before accepting it for publication or rejecting it.

A high-quality article should excel in the novelty, relevance, and significance of its research or ideas. Other than assessing these qualities, the reviewers also ensure the material adheres to the editorial standards of the target journal. After all, publishing an article also has an impact on the journal's reputation.

Sometimes, before the review process, the author's identity traces are removed from the draft. This type of evaluation is called a "blind" review. Blind reviews are a popular method of judging an article according to the quality of the work without letting the author's popularity interfere.

There are two types of blind reviews: single blind and double blind. In the former, the reviewer is aware of the author’s identity, but not conversely. In the latter, none of them knows who the other one might be.

There is also the “open peer review” process that still doesn’t have a standardized definition but represents a combination of different review methods. The idea is to make the classical peer review process more transparent. It covers plenty of aspects, including:

  • Open Up Identities. The authors and reviewers are aware of each other’s identity.
  • Making Review Reports Accessible. Review reports get published together with the article.
  • Open Up Participation. Not only invited experts can comment, but a wider community can contribute as well.

Peer-reviewed articles are written by experts or PHD students in a specific field and are destined for other scholars interested in or working in the same area. Since the topic of the articles is often too specific, it's impossible to have one editor review all manuscripts for a science journal. Instead, scholar peers from the relevant field are invited to do the assessment.

Most peer-reviewed articles include the following elements:

  • Discipline-specific language and terms
  • In-text citations
  • Bibliography of cited sources
  • Charts, graphs, and other visualizations related to the topic

The peer-reviewed articles are published by professional organizations or societies, universities, scholarly presses, or research centers.

All this is to say that the journal publishers invest time and effort into creating a robust system that helps review the articles before they're rejected or accepted for publication. So, when you run across a peer-reviewed journal article, it means that scholars from its field vetted it for relevance and quality. That's why some university professors may want students only to use papers that have undergone this selection process.

What Is the Peer-Review Process?

The peer-review process consists of several steps. They are as follows:

1. Paper Submission

First, an author submits the paper to the journal. That is often done via email but more and more dominantly via dedicated online platforms.

2. Editorial Office Assessment

The editorial office checks whether the article's composition and arrangement respect the journal's Author Guidelines. At this point, only the technical parts of the paper get assessed.

3. Appraisal by Editor-in-Chief

The Editor-in-Chief checks whether the manuscript is sufficiently interesting for the journal. They can reject the manuscript if it lacks originality or relevance (this is called “desk rejection”).

4. Invitation to Reviewers

The editor in charge of the article processing invites the scholars they believe could be appropriate reviewers. The editor waits for all reviewers to respond and may issue new invitations until obtaining the required number. There must be two or more reviewers involved in the process.

5. Conducting the Review

The reviewer proceeds to read the paper. They go over the work for the first time for an initial impression. They can recommend rejecting the paper if they believe there are significant problems. Otherwise, they go over the manuscript a few more times and create a detailed review. Finally, they submit the review to the journal and recommend whether to accept or reject it. Very often they ask for minor or major revision of the manuscript addressing the questions and comments in their report. In such cases the revised submission is returned to the same referee for a repeated check.

6. Final Evaluation of the Reviews

In some journals, the handling editor goes over the reviews and makes a final decision. In others, the decision will be made by the editor-in-chief. If there are significant variations between the reviews, the editor can invite additional reviewers to help them with decision-making. Finally, the editor lets the author know the final decision via email or via the journal’s online platform.

How to Find Peer-Reviewed Articles

If you're a student, you may be required to use peer-reviewed articles for your scholarly work. However, most papers can be found in a variety of sources, including:

  • Preprint Archives
  • Scholarly journals or articles

But how can you recognize peer-reviewed articles? To do so, you also need to know how to find a journal that publishes peer-reviewed papers.

First, you’ll want to visit a popular database and limit your search to peer-reviewed journals. You may have to click on "advanced" or "expert" search settings for some systems to find this feature. Note that not all databases allow you to limit your search options.

Also, to find a peer-reviewed journal, you can check a journal's web page. If it's peer-reviewed, there should be a statement about it.

Finally, you can use online library databases to look for peer-reviewed articles.

Choose AKJournals to Find Peer-Reviewed Articles

Peer-reviewed articles are high-quality, relevant, and original pieces of scholarly work that have undergone a strict review process. An editorial board and the field experts work together to assess article manuscripts for quality and relevance before publishing them in a journal. Doing so is important because it filters out low-grade work and helps bring the latest and most relevant content into the scientific world.

To find peer-reviewed articles, it's best to use online databases and filter them to show works that have undergone this process. Also, you can check a journal's website for notes on peer-review.

All of the journals from the AKJournals’ collection are peer-reviewed. As part of Hungary's oldest continuously-operating publishing house, our mission is to provide the scientific community with the highest-quality peer-review journal articles across various disciplines. Feel free to go through the subjects on our website and look for the publications you're interested in.

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How to Find Scholarly, Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

How to Identify a Scholarly, Peer-Reviewed Journal Article

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Terms & Definitions

Scholar: A highly educated specialist who conducts research in a particular branch of study

Periodical: A type of publication produced as an open-ended series at regular intervals, or “periods,” such as daily, monthly, quarterly or annually

Scholarly/Academic Journal: A type of periodical that includes original research articles written by researchers and experts in a particular academic discipline, providing a forum for the production and critique of knowledge

Research Article: A formally written article that describes new knowledge or ideas based on original research, analysis and/or interpretation

Peer Review: The process by which scholars critically evaluate each other's research article prior to publication in an academic journal.

Editor: An individual who reviews, corrects, and determines the final content of a publication<

Scholarly Communication: "The system through which research and other scholarly writings are created, evaluated for quality, disseminated to the scholarly community, and preserved for future use. The system includes both formal means of communication, such as publication in peer-reviewed journals, and informal channels, such as electronic listservs" (ACRL)

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Scholarly, peer-reviewed articles will have most of the characteristics listed below. Ask yourself these questions and look at the article to check if if the way it looks and is written indicates it is a reliable, accurate source:

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  • Example of a Peer-Reviewed Journal Article
  • Identifying Peer-Reviewed Research Articles
  • Clues an Article is NOT Peer-Reviewed
  • Types of Publications: Scholarly, Trade & Popular

peer reviewed research article

The following terms and characteristics indicate an article is news or opinion-based information or published in a trade or professional journal. 

  • Short title and abstract with simple, plain language 
  • Provides advice, information and/or news of interest to a professional or practitioner of the discipline, field or industry
  • Short or no reference list, footnotes and/or endnotes
  • ​Advertising targeted at individuals or companies associated with the profession. For example: job boards, industry supplies/equipment
  • Professional, educational, and opinion-based terms, such as:

peer reviewed research article

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FAQ: How do I know if my articles are scholarly (peer-reviewed)?

How to identify a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal article, what are scholarly, peer-reviewed journal articles.

Scholarly articles are those that are reviewed by multiple experts from their related  field(s) and then published in academic journals. There are academic journals for every subject area. The primary purpose of scholarly journals is to represent and disseminate research and scholarly discussions among scholars (faculty, researchers, students) within, and across, different academic disciplines.  

Scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles can be identified by the following characteristics:

  • Author(s): They are typically written by professors, researchers, or other scholars who specialize in the field and are often  identified by the academic institution at which they work.
  • Purpose : They are published by professional associations, university publishers or other academic publishers  to  report research results or discuss ongoing research in detail.
  • Language: They are highly specialized and may use technical language.
  • Layout: They will cite their sources and include footnotes, endnotes, or parenthetical citations and/or a list of bibliographic references.
  • Content : They may include graphs and tables and they undergo a peer review process before publication.  

Helpful tips for finding scholarly articles:

Detail of Academic Search Complete search results, showing the filter for "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals"

What is a Scholarly Journal Article?

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What is peer review?

Identifying if a journal is peer reviewed, using the database to identify a peer-reviewed journal.

So, what is "peer review"? This refers to the process where authors who are doing research submit a paper they have written to a journal. The journal editor then sends the article to the author's peers (researchers and scholars) who are in the same discipline for review. The reviewers determine if the article should be published based on the quality of the research, including the validity of the data, the conclusions the authors' draw and the originality of the research. This process is important because it validates the research and gives it a sort of "seal of approval" from others in the research community.

Peer review in 5 minutes (NCSU) (5:11 min.)

One of the best places to find out if a journal is peer-reviewed is to go to the journal website.

Most publishers have a website for a journal that tells you about the journal, how authors can submit an article, and what the process is for getting published.

If you find the journal website, look for the link that says information for authors, instructions for authors, submitting an article or something similar.

Another place to find out if the journal is peer-reviewed is to use one of the online databases.

For example, if you know that articles from your journal appear in the Academic Search Premier database, you can search for the journal in the database and learn more about it.

Go to Academic Search Premier and click on Publications at the top of the screen.

Enter the name of the journal and click browse. If the journal is included in the database, you will see it in the list of results.

This will take you to the journal information. At the bottom, you can see that this journal is peer-reviewed.

Academic Search Premiere does not include all journals so the one you are looking for may not be listed here. You can also try AcademicOneFile and browse for the publication.

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  1. How to Publish Your Article in a Peer-Reviewed Journal: Survival Guide

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  2. (PDF) A Peer-Reviewed Scholarly Article

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