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Evaluating Information: Academic Sources & Peer Review

What is Peer Review?

Authors who wish to publish their research submit the paper to an academic journal.

If the academic journal uses a peer review system then the journal editor sends the article to researchers and scholars who are in the same discipline as the author (the author's peers).

Their job is to review the paper in order to determine if it should be published as an article in the journal.

Why should I care about Peer Review?

Any paper that passes the peer-review process can be considered to have the highest level of academic credibility.

However you will still need to consider the other elements of the Who, Why, When, Where, How and What evaluation criteria. Using relevant and current peer reviewed journal articles to complete your assignments and projects strengthens your arguments.

created by NCSU Library, North Carolina

Where can I find peer reviewed articles?

Peer reviewed journal articles can be found on the library databases. Peer reviewed journal articles can also be found through the Directory of Open Access Journals website and Google Scholar.

Some databases allow you to narrow your search to return only peer reviewed results. This process differs from database to database and is often as easy as ticking a box that says Peer Reviewed.

How do I verify whether a journal is peer-reviewed?

One of the best places to find out if a journal is peer-reviewed is to go to the journal information page on the database or the journal website.




This will give information about the journal, how authors can submit an article, and what the process is for getting published.

Look for the link that says information for authors, instructions for authors, submitting an article or something similar. It will state here whether or not there is peer review process in place.

Scholarly, Popular or Trade?


  • Contains articles presenting original research or events relating to a specific discipline.
  • Written by professors, researchers or professionals; credentials are usually stated in the article.
  • Mostly text supported by black and white figures, graphs, tables or charts; few advertisments.
  • Articles are usually evaluated by experts before publication (peer reviewed).
  • Bibliographies support research and point to further research on a topic.
  • Articles about current events and popular culture, opinion pieces, self help tips, advertising.
  • Written by staff writers or freelancers; names and credentials often not stated.
  • Glossy, colour photographs, easy to read layout, plenty of advertising.
  • Timely coverage of popular topics and current events.
  • Authors usually do not cite sources.
  • Articles about news, trends, best practices and products for a specific industry or profession.
  • Written by a professional in the field, sometimes a journalist with subject area expertise. Often published by a trade association.
  • Written for practitioners in a field who want to know news, trends and best practices for their specific industry or profession.
  • Timely coverage of industry trends.
  • Not peer reviewed, though author is usually a professional in the field.

Content created by William H. Hannon Library, Loyola Marymount University. Reused and adapted here with their kind permission.

Remember: If you are trying to decide whether to use an information source in your assignment you can apply the  Who, Why, When, Where, How and What evaluation criteria  to help you make your decision.

The Content/Source Type Filter

Most library databases contain a filter option to allow you to choose which type of material you would like to view in your search results.

This filter can be applied before you perform the search using the Advanced Search feature or alternatively, if you already have a list of search results, you still have the option of narrowing down your search to a particular content type by clicking on the desired refinement option.

Citation Analysis

Citation Analysis or citation tracking is a way to see the impact of an article in its field based on the number of times it has been cited by others. As well as assessing an articles impact, citation analysis can help you identify seminal works in a particular field or topic area and also assess an individual authors’ impact. Once you have identified an influential article you can use citation analysis to find more recent, related articles that cite the landmark article.

The list below contains some of the databases that have citation analysis tools. Check the database you use for links to sources that cite your article of interest. In order to get a sense of an articles’ importance based on how many times it has been cited by others, you should use the citation tool in a few databases as no one single database will account for all journal articles that have cited the work. Remember that it takes time for a published article to be cited by others. A recently published article needs time to be read, considered and responded to by researchers in the same field.

Some citation analysis tools

  • You can also use the advanced search feature to further refine your search by clicking the drop-down arrow in the search box. This can be useful when searching for an author with a common name. Combining the author field with another search field leads to more accurate results.
  • Like the databases above, Google Scholar does not index all scholarly articles.
  • Google Scholar includes and gives an equal rank to sources such as PowerPoint and Word documents when it calculates its Cited By count.
  • Find out further information about Google Scholar in the guide below: