This video from North Carolina State University explains how the peer-review process works.
How do I know if a journal is peer reviewed?
Some article databases allow you to limit to peer-reviewed journals when searching. If you cannot limit to peer-reviewed journals, use the Ulrichsweb database to look up the title of the journal. Ulrichsweb will show whether a journal is "refereed," which is another word for peer review. Access to this database is restricted to UW-Whitewater students, faculty, and staff.
Remember, not all articles in peer-reviewed journals go through the peer-review process. Once you find an article in a peer-reviewed journal, you must then determine if the article is scholarly. If the article is scholarly, and it is in a peer-reviewed journal, then that article was peer reviewed.
Identifying scholarly articles involves analysis of the article's content. The chart below is meant to help you in this process; however, any one criteria by itself may not indicate that an article is scholarly. For example, a 30 page photo spread in People about stars at the Academy Awards is not scholarly, even though it is long.
Trade or Professional Magazines
|Length||Longer articles (often 10+ pages), providing in-depth analysis||Mid-length articles (often 2-8 pages), providing practical guidance||Shorter articles (often <1-5 pages), providing broader overviews|
|Author||An expert or specialist in the field (often a professor), name and credentials always provided||Usually someone working in the field, with hands-on experience; some staff writers||Usually a staff writer or a journalist, name and credentials often not provided|
|Language||Professional language, jargon, theoretical terms||Some jargon and technical terms||Non-technical language|
|Likely Audience||Scholarly readers (professors, researchers or students)||Other people working in the industry||Anyone|
|Advertisements||Few or none||Some -- products to sell to practitioners in that industry||Many -- products for the general public|
|Format/Structure||Usually structured, with likely sections: abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, bibliography||Sometimes has sub-sections for organization||No specific format or structure|
|Special Features||Illustrations that support the text, such as tables of statistics, graphs, maps, or photographs||Some illustrations; practical guidelines, best practices, lesson plans, how-to, or other hands-on direction||Glossy/color illustrations or graphics, usually for advertising purposes|
|Editors||Reviewed and critically evaluated by several editors. Often refereed or peer-reviewed by experts in the field.||Editorial board of other practitioners or professionals in the field, but no external peer review||Not evaluated by experts in the field, but by editors or other journalists on staff|
|Credits||Bibliography (works cited) and/or footnotes are always present to document research||Usually no formal bibliography, although references to other research are often mentioned in-text||No bibliography, although references to other research are sometimes mentioned in-text|
Still can't tell the difference? These resources can help:
Ulrichsweb (periodicals directory) -- look up a journal's name, and look for the row called "Content type" -- it should say Academic/Scholarly, Trade, or Consumer (popular).
A scholarly journal that uses the peer review process before publishing articles is described as a refereed journal.
An article that has undergone scrutiny of other scholars and researchers is described as a peer-reviewed article.
Many databases provide a search limiter that help you eliminate publications such as magazines, newspapers, and trade journals. Look for a limiter option such as this:
When searching for articles using Google Scholar, however, you need to ascertain that a journal is refereed. Use the tools on this page, such as Ulrichsweb to help you identify this information.