What is Peer Review?
In academic publishing, the goal of peer review is to assess the quality of articles submitted for publication in a scholarly journal. Before an article is deemed appropriate to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, it must undergo the following process:
- The author of the article must submit it to the journal editor who forwards the article to experts in the field. Because the reviewers specialize in the same scholarly area as the author, they are considered the author’s peers (hence “peer review”).
- These impartial reviewers are charged with carefully evaluating the quality of the submitted manuscript.
- The peer reviewers check the manuscript for accuracy and assess the validity of the research methodology and procedures.
- If appropriate, they suggest revisions. If they find the article lacking in scholarly validity and rigor, they reject it.
Because a peer-reviewed journal will not publish articles that fail to meet the standards established for a given discipline, peer-reviewed articles that are accepted for publication exemplify the best research practices in a field.
Features of a Peer-Reviewed Article
When you are determining whether or not the article your found is a peer-reviewed article, you should consider the following questions:
Is the journal in which you found the article published or sponsored by a professional scholarly society, professional association, or university academic department? Does it describe itself as a peer-reviewed publication? (To know that, check the journal’s website).
Did you find a citation for it in one of the databases that includes scholarly publications? (Criminal Justice Abstracts, EBSCOhost Academic Search Complete, PsycINFO, etc.)? Read the database description to see if it includes scholarly publications.
Did you limit your search to scholarly or peer-reviewed publications?
Is there an abstract (summary) at the beginning of the article?
Is the tone of the article thoughtful, restrained and serious?
Does the article have footnotes or citations of other sources?
Does the article have a bibliography or list of references at the end?
Are the author’s credentials listed?
Is the topic of the article narrowly focused and explored in depth?
Is the article based on either original research or authorities in the field (as opposed to personal opinion)?
Is the article written for readers with some prior knowledge of the subject?
If your field is social or natural science, is the article divided into sections with headings such as those listed below?