How do you know if a journal is peer reviewed?

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:

  1. Go to and click the “Databases” link
  2. Choose “U” and then click on the “Ulrich’s” 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

For more information on peer reviews, see: What does “peer review” mean?

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? )