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What is a peer-reviewed article?

You've probably been told by instructors before that you need to find peer-reviewed articles for your research. But what does that mean, exactly, and how do you know if you've found one?

Peer review is the process by which new research is evaluated before it is published to ensure that it is credible. When researchers write up the results of their work, they send it to journals. Journal editors in turn send the work to peer reviewers who read the article to evaluate the research methods, the quality of the data and sources used, and to assess whether the researcher's conclusions are valid. Only after peer reviewers have evaluated the work and determined that it is high quality will it be published in a journal. This process has been used for centuries to ensure that the scholarly record is credible and that what is published can be trusted. 

Identifying a peer-reviewed article isn't always easy. One of the best ways to start is to pay attention to the journal where the article was published. You may want to google the journal title to find out whether the research they publish is peer reviewed. You will also want to look for a works cited or reference list to ensure that the authors properly cited the information used in the article. In scholarly work, authors won't provide information or make claims without citing their source or providing their data. Check the authors, too: peer-reviewed and scholarly articles will usually tell you where the author works. Researchers often work at universities or research institutes. 

As you read more scholarly articles, you'll begin go recognize the conventions and style and be more comfortable discerning when an article is scholarly and when it is not. 

Where do I find them?

Most scholarly work is not freely available on the web. Subscriptions to scholarly journals are expensive, and scholarly books usually cost more than popular books. Thankfully, the library subscribes to these resources on behalf of the entire university, so the library is your best first stop for finding scholarly materials. 

Most journals are now published online and are included in research databases. You can find research databases in the library. Some databases are subject specific and some are more interdisciplinary. Some include scholarly articles and some include popular and scholarly materials. Some include only articles and some also include ebooks and videos. There is a wide variety, so it's good to explore to see what is available. 

Most of the content in our research databases is also included in OneSearch, so it's a good place to start. But there are still some things that are only available in databases. Here are a few you might want to check out. 

Literature and Linguistics

If your research project is focused on literature or language, check out these databases: 


Looking for critical studies of historical events and periods? Check out a few history databases. 

The Arts

If you're looking for information on art, film, dance, theater, or music, here are some databases dedicated to the arts.

Social and Cultural Issues

Your research may touch on social and cultural issues, and there are many databases you might want to explore in the fields of sociology, politics, and anthropology. There are some that specialize in Spanish-language journals.