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Get started with research

Learn how to use the library resources to get started with your research.

What is peer-reviewed and why is it important?

You may be required to find peer-reviewed articles for an assignment. But what does peer review mean and why is it important? Peer-reviewed articles report scholars’ findings and are published in scholarly journals. Written for an audience of other researchers in the same field of study, these articles are only published after they have been carefully critiqued and have been through a rigorous quality control test of “peer-review”.

Suppose a scholar wants to share her findings with the academic community. She writes an article describing her research and her findings and she submits it to a topic-specific journal. The journal editor decides whether the specific topic of the article is a good fit with the general topic of the journal. If the article passes this first test, the editor then sends the article out to a group of experts who review its merit. These experts are the author’s peers. They work in the same academic field and have comparable levels of expertise. Each reviewer judges the article’s quality, relevance and contribution to the field. They consider the importance of the article’s topic, the books and articles the author referenced to provide context for their work, the research methods chosen and how well they were applied, and whether the author’s conclusions are logical and valid. Reviewers then make a recommendation to the editor to either accept, reject, or send the article back for further revision.

It’s important to use peer-reviewed literature to improve the quality of your own research. Plus,you can have greater confidence that you’re creating a strong foundation for your own arguments by basing your work on credible research that has already been reviewed by experts in that field. To determine if an article is truly peer reviewed, google the title of the journal, navigate to its website. Look for information about the peer-review process. This should be listed under either "About this Journal" or in a section outlining submission guidelines for authors.

For more information about what defines a peer reviewed article, check out our table on this page.