What is Peer Review?
Your instructor may want you to use "peer reviewed" articles as sources for your paper. Or you may be asked to find "academic," "scholarly," or "refereed" articles. What do these terms mean?
Let's start with the terms academic and scholarly, which are synonyms. An academic or scholarly journal is one intended for a specialized or expert audience. Journals like this exist in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. Examples include Nature, Journal of Sociology, and Journal of American Studies. Scholarly/academic journals exist to help scholars communicate their latest research and ideas to each other; they are written "by experts for experts."
Most scholarly/academic journals are peer reviewed; another synonym for peer reviewed is refereed. Before an article is published in a peer-reviewed journal, it's evaluated for quality and significance by several specialists in the same field, who are "peers" of the author. The article may go through several revisions before it finally reaches publication.
Magazines like Time or Scientific American, newspapers, (most) books, government documents, and websites are not peer-reviewed, though they may be thoroughly edited and fact-checked. Articles in scholarly journals (in printed format or online) usually ARE peer-reviewed.
How can you tell if an article is both scholarly and peer-reviewed?Read more
What type of information do you need?
Articles are published in scholarly journals, newspapers and popular magazines. Think about the type of information you need for your paper, who would write about your topic and where those articles would be published. This will save you time by ensuring that you begin your research in the right place.
Female college students with eating disorders.
- Who would write about this topic?
- A. Psychologists, health/medical researchers
- B. Writers for women’s magazines or news magazines
- Where would they publish?
- A. Scholarly psychology or health/medical journals
- B. Popular magazines
In the article databases and library catalogs, your search strategy should include combining keywords that represent the main concepts of your topic. Take a couple minutes to think about your topic and keywords to use in your searches.
Suppose you're starting with the thesis: “Global warming is having adverse impacts on agriculture in America.” What keywords might be used to search for relevant sources?
Break your question down into its major concept terms:
global warming | impacts | agriculture | America
Think of synonyms and variations of your keywords to use when searching. You should go through this quick exercise because you may find out that while you use the word “global warming,” the database you’re searching uses “climate change.” Using synonyms guarantees that you’re casting a wider net.
Construct a search using your keywords, combining them with AND and OR
- AND narrows your search by looking for articles with all of the words
- OR broadens your search by looking for articles with any of the words