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McNair Scholar Services

Provides a guide to library services for McNair Scholars

Peer-Reviewed Journals

What's a Peer-Reviewed Journal?

Peer-reviewed journals are also called “refereed” or “juried” journals. They are sometimes called "scholarly" or "academic" journals. The peer review process means that a manuscript is reviewed by others in the same field. These individuals (peers) read and review the manuscript, offering their comments and judgement as to its value. The process is intended to enhance the quality of the publications.

Finding Peer-Reviewed Journals

Ask your professor for a list of recommended titles.  

Ask the librarian to help you find a professional journal in a particular field.

Use a discipline-specific index (Education Full Text, Applied Science and Technology, PsycInfo, etc.) While this strategy will help you find peer-reviewed journal articles, you should be aware that not all citations in such indexes are from peer-reviewed journals. 

Use special features of online databases. Many allow you to limit your search results to peer-reviewed journals.

Check the Serials Directory, available from the Databases A-Z List, to see if it characterizes the journal in question as “peer-reviewed.”

Check the “Instructions to Authors” section in the journal, where the editor explains the process used to decide whether an article is appropriate for a particular journal.

Look carefully at a journal issue and consider the characteristics listed below. If you are in doubt, consult with a librarian or your professor.

Characteristics of Peer-Reviewed Journals

Peer-reviewed journals have characteristics that distinguish them from popular magazines. There is not always a clear-cut distinction between popular magazines and journals, however; some publications have qualities of both. Following is a comparison of peer-reviewed journals and popular magazines.

Journal articles are written by experts in the field. Often, popular magazine articles are written by a staff writer.

Journal articles are often intended for a person with knowledge in a specific discipline: a medical journal is written for doctors, a legal journal for attorneys, etc.

The author of a journal article is always listed—usually, along with his or her qualifications or brief information about the author.

Journal articles include a list of references. This allows you to see what the sources are and to check them if you wish, providing you with other possible resources.

Scholarly journals are often published by a professional organization or society.

Often, the word “journal” appears in the title. However, this is not always a good clue: Ladies Home Journal, for instance, is a popular magazine.

Often, a journal article is preceded by an abstract, or summary of the content.

Journals do not include advertisements; popular magazines do.

Titles of articles in journals are very revealing of content, not just clever or catchy, as is often the case with popular magazines.

Scholarly journal articles often report on research; they may include theoretical assumptions, methodology, hypotheses, results, and conclusions. Popular magazines may report conclusions as factual (without including all the details and research.)