Many professors will require that you only use “peer reviewed” journals in your projects (see What is Peer Review for a definition). Not all academic journals are peer reviewed, though. So, how do you know if an article you’ve found is peer reviewed or not?
A great resource called Ulrich’s Periodicals Directory will help you answer that question. I’ll give you step-by-step instructions for accessing this resource:
- Go to www.lib.uwo.ca and click the “Databases” link
- Choose “U” and then click on the “Ulrich’s” entry (Off campus users must log in)
- In the search box, enter the name of the journal you are searching for
- Next to the name of your journal, you will see little symbols
- Look for a referee jersey icon: if one exists, that journal is peer reviewed
- 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
For more information on peer reviews, see: 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? )