What is Peer Review and How Do I Find Peer Reviewed Articles?

What is Peer Review and How Do I Find Peer Reviewed Articles?

Inevitably, you’ll be tasked during your college career with locating “peer-reviewed” journals or articles for an assignment.

1. What does “peer review” mean and how do I find peer reviewed material?

In a nutshell: “peer review” is a process whereby journal content is checked over, before it’s published, by a group of experts in the field that the article deals with, to make sure the methodology used is credible and the research has value to the the larger field of study, discipline or profession. In other words, a group of the author’s “peers” review the article to make sure it is of value. You may sometimes see other terms used in place of “peer review,”  such as “scholarly” or “academic.” Also note that a journal can be considered peer-reviewed but that some content in that journal (such as an editorial or book review) may not have gone through the peer review process.

You can find a much better description via this video tutorial:  Peer Review in 5 Minutes.

2. How do I find or recognize if something is peer-reviewed?

Unfortunately there is no single, easy, fool-proof  way to identify if a specific result you find when searching is peer-reviewed or not. You can check to see if there is an acknowledgment or ‘thank you,’ usually near the beginning or end of the article, demonstrating the author’s appreciation to the ‘peers’ who did the reviewing. Also, there are some limit functions in many library databases that can do most of this work for you, and failing that, there are some other ways to tell if it might be peer reviewed:

First, several more specialized databases in the library contain ALL peer-reviewed journals (but, editorials and reviews from those journals aren’t necessarily peer-reviewed), including:

Second, many library databases contain an option on the search page or the results page to limit your results to just those from peer-reviewed journals. Here are some examples from our largest databases:


EBSCOHost database showing "scholarly (peer reviewed)" limit option on the left side of the results page.
Academic Search Complete (EBSCOHost)


Search page for Gale's Academic OneFile highlighting the Peer-reviewed limit option
Gale’s Academic OneFile

Third, use the Ulrich’s Database, ulrichsweb.com.  Ulrichsweb is an easy to search source of detailed information on more than 300,000 periodicals (also called serials) of all types: academic and scholarly journals, e-journals, peer-reviewed titles, popular magazines, newspapers, newsletters, and more.  It can be located using the Databases tab on the Library’s home page.  If on campus, simply type ulrichsweb.com to be logged into the SUNY Oneonta instance of this resource.

Fourth,  find the home page for the journal on the web and see if it mentions if a peer-review process is used (look for something like “About this Journal” or “Author Guidelines”).

If you’re unsure, you can always Ask a Librarian!