1. What is peer review?

If you’ve been given the instructions for a research project, you may have heard the term “peer review.” Some professors specifically require that their students use only “peer-reviewed” articles in their assignments. Others may ask you to use “refereed” or “scholarly” articles – in this case, they’re also asking for articles that have gone through the peer-review process, even if they’re not using the term outright.

So, what does peer review mean?

In the simplest terms possible, peer review is a process that a resource undergoes before it is published.

Here is a scenario to help explain the process: let’s pretend I’m a researcher and I’ve written an article. When I submit this article to a journal for publication, it is reviewed anonymously by different experts in my field. To ensure that the system is as fair and unbiased as possible, the system is “double blind” – this means that I don’t know who the reviewers are, and they don’t know my name. I then receive my article back from the reviewers, make any corrections or changes they suggest, and re-submit it to the journal for publication.

Peer reviewed journals, then, are often considered more credible than open-access or non-peer reviewed journals, since experts have reviewed the content/methodology/conclusions, etc., and still said it should be published.

2. How do you know if a journal is peer-reviewed?

A great resource called Ulrich’s Periodicals Directory helps you answer this question. I’ll give you step-by-step instructions for accessing this resource:

  1. Go to www.lib.uwo.ca and click the “Databases” link
  2. Choose “U” and then click on the “Ulrich’s Periodical Directory” entry (Off campus users must log in)
  3. In the search box, enter the name of the journal you are searching for
  4. Next to the name of your journal, you will see little symbols
  5. Look for a referee jersey icon: if one exists, that journal is peer reviewed
  6. If you see no icons at all, you may need to turn this function on: click the “Change Columns” link and make sure the referee jersey is selected