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ENGL 100/105 Valenzuela: What is peer review?

Finding peer-reviewed, academic, scholarly articles in databases

Many of your college papers will require "peer-reviewed articles." The "peers" are experts in the same field as the author; for instance, physics professors will review a physics professor's article. A professor or other expert submits their article to the editor of a journal in their field. A psychology professor might submit an article to the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. A physicist would submit a paper to  Applied Physics journalThe editors of these academic journals then ask  the authors' peers - other professors or experts in this field - to evaluate the submitted articles. Those experts then submit their comments and reviews back to the editor, who returns them to the author, who answers the criticisms and rewrites portions of the article to satisfy his "peer" reviewers.

Academic = scholarly or peer-reviewed

This lengthy editorial review explains why peer-reviewed journals - also known as scholarly or academic journals - usually publish only four times a year. Your instructors expect you to find peer-reviewed articles. This means using limiters to narrow your search results in databases to find these articles. Librarians can help you with this. Databases vary greatly and each offers different features. We can't cover them all here, but we can use a search in one of the more widely used databases as an example. Start from the library's homepage. and click on the "Articles" tab, shown in black in the illustration below. From the left drop-down menu, we'll use a database that includes nearly 4,000 full-text, peer-reviewed journals, Academic Search Complete, highlighted in blue, above.

Scholarly vs. popular sources

Instructors asking you to use credible sources may also use Turnitin.com to evaluate your citations to see whether you use scholarly, academic or peer-reviewed, or popular. See the box below to determine whether a source is "scholarly" or "popular."

 

How to evaluate whether your sources are reliable: the P.R.O.V.E.N. test

Use the P.R.O.V.E.N. Source Evaluation Process to help you determine whether the sources you find are credible and appropriate choices for your particular research purpose. The questions below will help you think critically during the source evaluation process:

  • Purpose: How and why the source was created. Why does this information exist, why is it in this form (book, article, website, etc.), and who is the intended audience? Is the purpose clear?
  • Relevance: The value of the source for your needs. How useful is this source in answering your question, supporting your argument, or adding to your knowledge? Is the type and content of the source appropriate for your assignment?
  • Objectivity: The reasonableness and completeness of the information. How thorough and balanced is this source? Does it present fact or opinion? How well do its creators acknowledge their point of view, represent other points of view fully, and critique them professionally?
  • Verifiability: The accuracy and truthfulness of the information. How well do the creators of this source support their information with factual evidence, identify and cite their sources, and accurately represent information from other sources? Can you find the original source(s) of the information or verify facts in other sources? What do experts say about the topic?
  • Expertise: The authority of the authors and the source. Who created this source and what education and/or professional or personal experience makes them authorities on the topic? How was the source reviewed before publication? Do other experts cite this source or otherwise acknowledge the authority of its creators?
  • Newness: The age of the information. Does your topic require current information? How up-to-date is this source and the information within it? 

Caulfield, Mike. "Four Moves and a Habit." Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers, 2017.

P.R.O.V.E.N. Source Evaluation by Ellen Carey (6/18/18) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.