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Loyola University Chicago Libraries


Quick Guide: Peer Review - How to Judge

Click on the PDF link above for a simple, one-page chart listing four primary characteristics of a peer reviewed journal article or scholarly book chapter.  The chart suggests ways in which you may judge whether an article meets each criteria.  These characterists may also be applied when evaluating a book chapter in an edited book.  This is not a definitive guide - when in doubt, always consult your professor or contact the library reference desk (see the Need Help tab to the left of this subject guide for a variety of ways to contact a reference librarian).

Detailed description of characteristics of a peer-reviewed work

General Guidelines for determining whether a journal article or book chapter is peer-reviewed/scholarly. A link to a simplified PDF chart is at the top of this page.

1) The article is written by an expert or authority on the topic. The author typically has an advanced degree, and this is listed following the author's name.

  • The author is usually a university professor, although the author may conduct research at other research centers, such as a governmental lab or organization.  Graduate students often publish their first papers while
  • A scholarly journal article typically lists the author’s academic degree and institutional affiliation.
  • If the research article is a chapter in an edited book, look for information about contributing authors in the front of the book.

2) The scholarly, peer-reviewed journal article or book chapter presents original, primary research, or provides an in-depth scholarly review of existing research on a topic.

  • Scholarly journal articles or book chapters typically present original research. 
  • A scholarly article builds upon existing research, but presents new data and analysis (in the social science or the sciences) or original arguments and interpretations (in the humanities).
  • The author will describe a research hypothesis and methodology, followed by the original research data and conclusions.
  • The author will document the background research with an extended list of works cited, footnotes, or endnotes that provide bibliographic information.
  • Scholarly articles in the sciences and social sciences often contain tabular data, charts, or illustrations.
  • Scholary journals will also publish a limited number of "review articles." While these articles do not provide original research, they provide an in-depth examination of all existing research on a topic. Review articles serve as exhaustive and comprehensive guides to research on that topic and are useful to other researchers and students.

peer review flowchart3) The article has been reviewed by other experts in the field.

When an article is submitted for publication, it is reviewed by members of the journal’s editorial board or submitteed to referees selected by the editor for their expertice and scholarship on the topic of the paper.

  • The editors or referees who review an article are experts, typicallly from universities and reearch organizations.
  • These reviewers judge the quality of the article based on such factors as the originality of the research, the soundness of the research methodology, the quality of the writing, the accuracy of the data, and the logic of the conclusions drawn from these data.

4) The article is published in a reputable, scholarly journal

  • Peer-reviewed/Scholarly journals are generally published by a university press (such Oxford University Press), a professional association press (such as the American Psychological Association), or a commercial publisher focused on the academic market (such as Elsevier or Wiley).

5) For research articles obtained from online research databases:

  • All of the information noted above holds true for articles obtained online.
  • Most databases include information about whether or not the journal is scholarly or peer reviewed, or the information will be available on the journal’s web site.
  • Most databases allow one to limit a search to peer-reviewed/scholarly titles.

6) Book Chapters:

  • Articles may also be published as a chapter in an edited book published by an academic press. 
  • A book chapter in an edited book has been reviewed by the editors. These editors are experts in the field. The review of submitted chapters is similar to the peer-review process in journals.
  • Although articles published in edited books undergo review by the editors of the book, if a professor requires peer-reviewed articles, do not use a chapter in an edited book without permission of your professor.
  • The book will be published by a reputable press. Examples: A university press (such as Oxford University Press), an organization or association press (such as the American Anthropological Association), or an academic publisher (such as Elsevier or Wiley). If you are uncertain about whether or not a press is reputable and scholarly, check with your professor or a librarian.
  • If you are examining a print copy of a book, the cover and initial pages of a scholarly print journal list an editorial board. If the book chapter is available online, the author's affiliation should be listed. Additional information may be found on the publishers web site.

If you are uncertain whether a source is peer-reviewed, please ask your professor or stop at the library reference desk.