Research Guide: Scholarly Journals

Use this guide to learn more about scholarly journals and the peer-review process

What is Peer-Review?

What is the peer review process?

In academic publishing, the goal of peer review is to assess the quality of articles submitted for publication in a scholarly journal. Before an article is deemed appropriate to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, it must undergo the following process:

  • The author of the article must submit it to the journal editor who forwards the article to experts in the field. Because the reviewers specialize in the same scholarly area as the author, they are considered the author’s peers (hence “peer review”).
  • These impartial reviewers are charged with carefully evaluating the quality of the submitted manuscript.
  • The peer reviewers check the manuscript for accuracy and assess the validity of the research methodology and procedures.
  • If appropriate, they suggest revisions. If they find the article lacking in scholarly validity and rigor, they reject it.

Because a peer-reviewed journal will not publish articles that fail to meet the standards established for a given discipline, peer-reviewed articles that are accepted for publication exemplify the best research practices in a field.

Attribution: Much of the information in these boxes about the the peer-review process was used with permission from the awesome librarians at the Lloyd Sealy Library at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Common elements of a peer-reviewed article

When you are determining whether or not the article you found is a peer-reviewed article, you should consider the following.

(Click on image to enlarge) 

This is an image showing parts of a scholarly journal highlighted, such as the authors and their credentials, the serious tone and in-depth coverage of the topic and various sections like an abstract, data, methods, discussions, and references

Also consider...
  • Is the journal in which you found the article published or sponsored by a professional scholarly society, professional association, or university academic department? Does it describe itself as a peer-reviewed publication? (To know that, check the journal's website). 
  • Did you find a citation for it in one of the  databases that includes scholarly publications? (Academic Search Complete, PsycINFO, etc.)?  Read the database description to see if it includes scholarly publications.
  • In the database, did you limit your search to scholarly or peer-reviewed publications? (See video tutorial below for a demonstration.)
  • Is the topic of the article narrowly focused and explored in depth?
  • Is the article based on either original research or authorities in the field (as opposed to personal opinion)?
  • Is the article written for readers with some prior knowledge of the subject?
  • If your field is social or natural science, is the article divided into sections with headings such as those listed below?
    • Introduction
    • Theory or Background
    • Methods
    • Discussion
    • Literature review
    • Subjects
    • Results
    • Conclusion

The easiest and fastest way to find peer-reviewed articles is to search the online library databases, many of which include peer-reviewed journals. To make sure your results come from peer-reviewed (also called "scholarly" or "academic") journals, do the following:

  1. Read the database description to determine if it features peer-reviewed articles. All of the GRC databases have short descriptions about what kinds of topics they cover and why types of articles they house. Many, if not most, of the database house journal articles. 

  2. When you search for articles, choose the Advanced Search option. On the search screen, look for a check-box that allows you to limit your results to peer-reviewed only. Often, you can see the option to limit to peer-review as well as "full-text" in the advanced settings, or off to the left hand side of the database's results page.

Consider the video below

Source: "Peer Review in 3 Minutes" by libncsu, is licensed under a Standard YouTube License.

Learn how the peer review process works and why it is so rigorous.

Video: Peer Review in 3 Minutes

Source: "Peer Review in 3 Minutes" by libncsu, is licensed under a Standard YouTube License.

Learn how the peer review process works and why it is so rigorous.