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Evaluating Sources

How to identify what sources you should use for your research

What are peer reviewed/academic journals?

Quick Explanation of Peer Review

  • When academics write articles, they submit them to journals in their fields for possible publication.
  • The journal editor sends out the article to two or three people in the same academic field.
  • These experts evaluate the article for:
    • Soundness of research methods,
    • Whether the conclusions follow from the results,
    • The quality of the literature review, and often
    • Whether the study provides new or novel information.
  • The article is revised by the author to address reviewer concerns.
  • If the majority of the external readers agree that the article is something that should be published in that journal, the writer is contacted and an agreement to publish the article is sent.

Not everything in a peer-reviewed journal is peer reviewed. Often these journals will contain editorials, book reviews, news articles, and opinion columns that do not go through peer review.

Using Peer Review

What Peer Review Is

  • A way to maintain certain quality standards for a field of research.
  • A method to ensure an article fits a journal's scope and quality standards.

What Peer Review Isn't

  • A perfect tool for filtering out bad research.
  • Assurance that something is the best possible source for your research.

Limiting Results to Peer-Reviewed Articles

A typical peer review limit for a databaseMany databases will allow you to limit your results to only peer-reviewed articles. Look for a box that says limit to peer-reviewed journals, scholarly articles, academic journals, or similar language. 

Note: These are usually reliable, but some articles that are not peer reviewed may still appear, especially if they are in a peer-reviewed journal but not themselves peer-reviewed. Always do your own evaluation.