What is Peer Review?

Research assignments often require that you include information from “peer-reviewed” articles. In scholarly publishing, peer-review is the process by which scholars in the same field critically evaluate one another’s work before it is published in an academic journal. Peer-review is a crucial process because it ensures a high level of scholarship for a publication and improves the quality of an author’s manuscript. Refereed is another term for peer-reviewed.

NOTE: Not all content in an academic journal is subject to peer-review. For example, editorials and book reviews do not go through the peer-review process, but primary (i.e., original) research articles do.

To get a better sense of how the peer-review process works, watch the video below.



How do I know if an article is peer-reviewed?

There are several methods you can use to identify peer-reviewed articles.

Method #1: Article Elements

A peer-reviewed source will typically have the following elements:

  • Abstract
  • Author(s) credentials (e.g, PhD) and/or affiliation (e.g., university)
  • Specialized and formal language
  • Methodology
  • Results/Findings
  • Discussion/Conclusion
  • Reference list or bibliography

Method #2: Journal Websites

One of the best places to find out if a journal is peer-reviewed is the journal’s website. If you already know the name of the journal, type the title “in quotes” in Google’s search bar to procure the journal’s homepage. The homepage or the “About” page should immediately confirm whether the journal in question is peer-reviewed.

Below is an example from the Quality in Primary Care website. The “About the Journal” section mentions that the journal is peer-reviewed in the opening sentence.


Screenshot of a journal "About" page with information about it's peer review process highlighted

Method #3: Databases

Most online databases will contain a directory of all the journals that are indexed, which includes publication information for each journal.

In EBSCO CINAHL, navigate to the Publications button in the top, left-hand corner of the home menu. There, you can search for journals by title. Each journal’s record will indicate whether that journal is peer-reviewed.


Screenshot of a journal record in a database with "Peer Review" status highlighted

How can I find peer-reviewed articles?

Many online databases let you limit your search results to peer-reviewed  journals. The screenshots below illustrate where to find those options in the Novanet catalogue and in the EBSCO CINAHL database.


In Novanet, you can refine your search results using the facets on the left-hand side of the screen. The Peer-reviewed Journals facet is located under the Availability heading.


Screenshot of Novanet with the Peer-reviewed journals filter highlighted


In the EBSCO CINAHL database, you can also limit your search results by clicking the Peer Reviewed option on the advanced search page.


Screenshot of EBSCO CINAHL highlighting the Peer Reviewed checkbox on the Advanced Search Page

Check Your Understanding


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Introduction to the Library and Library Research by Margaret Vail and Karina Espinosa is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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