What does “peer review” mean?

Many professors will require that students only use “peer-reviewed” articles in their bibliographies.  This causes a problem when students are unsure what peer reviewing actually means.

In understandable terms, peer reviewing is about the process that a resource undergoes before it is published.

This is best explained in a scenario: 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: I don’t know who the reviewers are, and they don’t know my name  (This system is called “double blind,” meaning that bias can’t affect how my article is reviewed).  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, et cetera, and still said it should be published.

Tip: To check whether a journal is peer reviewed or not, use Ulrich’s Periodicals Directory, accessible from Western Libraries (or see: How do you know if a journal is peer reviewed? )