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Environmental Science 400: Environmental Science Capstone: Evaluating Journals

This guide is intended to help you find quality research resources for your Environmental Science Capstone research.

Peer Review in 3 Minutes

This video from North Carolina State University explains how the peer-review process works.

Peer-reviewed Journals

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.

Scholarly Journal v. Popular Magazine Articles

Identifying scholarly articles involves analysis of the article's content. The chart below is meant to help you in this process; any one criteria by itself may not indicate that an article is scholarly. For example, a 30 page photo spread about stars at the Academy Awards may not be scholarly.


Journal Cover

Magazine Cover

Length Longer articles, providing in-depth analysis of topics Shorter articles, providing broader overviews of topics
Authorship Author an expert or specialist in the field, name and credentials always provided Author usually a staff writer or a journalist, name and credentials often not provided
Language/Audience Written in the language of the field for scholarly readers (professors, researchers or students) Written in non-technical language for anyone to understand
Format/Structure Articles usually more structured, may include these sections: abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, bibliography Articles do not necessarily follow a specific format or structure
Special Features Illustrations that support the text, such as tables of statistics, graphs, maps, or photographs Illustrations with glossy or color photographs, usually for advertising purposes
Editors Articles usually reviewed and critically evaluated by a board of experts in the field (refereed or peer-reviewed) Articles are not evaluated by experts in the field, but by editors on staff
Credits A bibliography (works cited) and/or footnotes are always provided to document research thoroughly A bibliography (works cited) is usually not provided, although names of reports or references may be mentioned in the text

Still can't tell the difference? These resources can help:
Ulrich's International Periodicals Directory

Still confused?
Ask a Reference Librarian for help (see left).

The content of this guide was originally created by Celita DeArmond for the University of Texas at San Antonio, and has been modified with permission for the use of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Is it Peer Reviewed?

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.

Journal Details