What's Peer-Reviewed?

What's Peer-Reviewed?
Is it the same as Academic?
How can I tell?

The terms academic, scholarly or peer-reviewed are different ways to describe the intellectual rigour of an article, book or publication. The terms tell the reader that the article is reliable and authoritative, and makes a valuable contribution to the topic of study. Usually, when we talk about peer-reviewed item, we mean an article in a journal, both of which would be peer-reviewed.

An academic or peer-reviewed publication is one that has been published by a reputable publisher to rigorous standards. Before the article is accepted for publication it passes before an editorial group made up of experts, scholars or academics in the field known as an editorial board. This editorial board reads the article, or has a team of appointed referees read the article, to ensure that the work that led to the writing of the article has been conducted on scientific principles (this applies even if the topic is in the humanities). Scientific principles mean that the author(s) proposes an idea, conducts a study or examines work in order to support or refute that idea, argues for or against previous research in the field, presents the data of his own research and then draws conclusions and analysis from that research.

In an academic/peer-reviewed article you will find the following characteristics: The author(s) institutional affiliations are given so that it is possible to verify authorship and to ensure transparency of bias, purpose and funding sources. The thesis, study methods, and conclusions are presented in full and should be clear. The work is narrow in focus but considers the narrow topic thoroughly and deeply. The work presents verifiable conclusions that are independent of opinion. The article cites other relevant research, and refutes or supports those precedents. The work must cite its sources in a standardized format both in text and in footnotes or endnotes.

In contrast, a popular or non-academic article does not have an abstract, argues a point by opinion rather than by fact, gives qualitative rather than evidential examples, does not cite references to contextual works by others in the field, and does not have a reference list bibliography or list of Works Cited.

Some Samples of Academic Journals:

  • AAPS Journal
  • Biological research
  • Canadian Journal of Criminology
  • The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology
  • Cancer Nursing Practice
  • Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology
  • Marine Biology
  • Nature
  • Nursing & Health Sciences
  • Nursing Journal
  • Paediatric Anaesthesia
  • Radical Society: review of culture & politics
  • Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research
  • Science
  • Teaching and Teacher Education
  • The Veterinary Journal

Some Samples of Popular or Non-Academic Journals:

  • Advertising Industry Profile
  • Backstage
  • Business in Vancouver
  • CCA News
  • Nature Conservancy
  • Newsweek
  • Science News
  • Sport
  • Sporting Goods Dealer
  • Time
  • Vancouver Province
  • Vancouver Sun

Academic or Peer-Reviewed Article Characteristics in Brief

  • Authoritative Publication
  • Approved by an Editorial Board of Peers or Experts
  • Author affiliation is given
  • Abstract (usually) given
  • Thesis statement
  • Methodology
  • Data
  • Argument
  • In-text citations to existing relevant research
  • Conclusions
  • List of Works Cited

Identifying an Authoritative Publication

An authoritative publication is one that is reliable and important because it is publishes only material that can be confirmed by research, it has a history of excellence, a reputation to maintain, and expertise to back up its claims. These publication houses are usually associated with a renowned institution, such as a university press (SFU, UBC, Oxford University Press, a national or international organization (American Psychological Association; Academy of Management; Canadian Medical Association, etc.); or it is a long-established publishing house - ask if you are uncertain, such as Elsevier, John Wiley, Blackwell, Routledge, Taylor & Francis, Springer-Verlag, MLA, etc.

Identifying the Peer Review or Finding the Editorial Board

The peer review panel is a group of identifiable persons who read each article and judge the thesis, methodology and conclusions of the article against non-partisan and unbiased criteria, and then give or deny approval for publication to the editorial board. The referees are not necessarily members of the editorial board, which as a collective claims responsibility and authority for the intellectual content of the document. The editorial board also sets the standards, scope, and direction for the journal. In a print version you will find this information in the publisher's plaque, which is typically on the verso of the table of contents of a journal. In an online publication, this information will either be on the publisher's website, on the bottom of each article, or within the database under a link that might be called "Editorial Staff & Board", "Publication Information", "Publication Detail", "Journal Scope" or "Editorial Policy".

Eg: © Blackwell Publishing Ltd/Editorial Board 2004. Published by Blackwell Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden MA 02148, USA

Identifying the Authors by Credentials and Affiliations

Pull the authors from the article itself, or the citation in the online or print index or database. Institutional affiliations and academic qualifications are usually given. This is done so that readers may contact the authors; authors are responsible for the accuracy, truth and originality of their research.

Eg: McNeely, Jennifer1 Arnsten, Julia H.2,3,4 Gourevitch, Marc N.5 marc.gourevitch@med.nyu.edu


1Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA

2 Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, NY, USA

3Division of Substance Abuse, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, NY, USA

4Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, NY, USA

5Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA. (McNeely, Arnsten & Gourevitch, p. 51, 2006)

Locating the Abstract or Summary

The abstract is usually given below the citation. Not all academic articles have abstracts, but most do. Read the abstract to find the key information that is available in the article; the abstract should inform you of the relevance of the article to your own work. 

E.g.: 

Abstract: We evaluated a novel intervention designed to improve access to sterile syringes and safe syringe disposal for injection drug users (IDUs) newly enrolled in methadone maintenance, through interviews with two sequential cohorts of 100 recent entrants into a methadone program in the Bronx, NY. A substantial number of participants had injected in the previous 6 months, and most continued injecting during the early weeks of treatment. The intervention was associated with significant behavior changes among IDUs, including increased use of pharmacies as a primary source of syringes (11% vs. 37%, p < .05) and decreases in both purchasing of syringes on the street (51% vs. 27%, p < .05) and needle sharing (40% vs. 7%, p < .01). The intervention had no impact on the prevalence of injection or on syringe disposal practices. Our findings suggest that drug treatment programs can serve an important role in reducing injection-related risk behavior by facilitating access to sterile syringes. [Copyright 2006 Elsevier] (McNeely, Arnsten, & Gourevitch, p. 254, p. 51, 2006)

Identifying the Thesis statement

The thesis statement presents a theory that will be explained, tested, and approved or refuted by the work presented in the article. Often you will find it in the introduction or in the first one or two paragraphs of the article.

E.g.:

To explore the effectiveness of integrating harm reduction services for IDUs into a drug treatment program, we initiated a pilot project to facilitate access to sterile injecting equipment and proper disposal for patients in one MMTP. We evaluated the impact and acceptability of this intervention on knowledge and utilization of safe syringe sources and disposal practices. (McNeely, Arnsten, &Gourevitch, p. 51, 2006)

Identifying the Methodology

Academic articles will detail how a study was conducted, or the parameters for an argument. To be conducted along scientific principles, a study, experiment, survey, examination or analysis should be described in enough detail that a researcher in the same field would have enough information to replicate the study etc himself and test the results.

E.g.:

Data were gathered in a semi-structured manner with open-ended guides. Focus groups and interviews were conducted to collect detailed accounts of experiences with AD-diagnoses and of the philosophy of both individual staff members and the Association. Sampling The first part of the sample consisted of two one-hour focus groups (N = 12) and two-hour in-depth interviews (N = 6) with people diagnosed in the early stages of AD (ESAD). The elapsed time since diagnosis varied from weeks to years, since 'stage' refers to a categorisation independent of illness duration. All respondents were over 70 years old (mean = 73.5). There were 11 men and seven women. All but four were married and resided with a spouse: three (women) were widowed and one (man) was single, and all four lived alone. (Beard, p. 799, 2004)

Finding the Data, Results, or Evidence

Data, or supportive examples in the case of the humanities, must be given in the article. Data can be statistical or descriptive but it is drawn from the evidence, and this evidence has been gathered by experimentation, controlled studies, measurable and quantifiable tests, or from the subject of the study.


E.g.:

peer reviewed

(Malviya, Voepel-Lewis, Ramamurthi, Burke, & Tait, p. 556, 2006)

Identifying the Argument

Scholarly articles can also be described as "academic argument", because they debate, support, or contradict with fact-based argument the work of their peers and colleagues whether those peers are in academia or in industry.

E.g.:

This essay investigates the conceptual foundations of "western alienation" and evaluates whether Senate reform is the appropriate cure for alienation in western Canada. It disputes the thesis, put forward most persuasively by political scientist Roger Gibbins which argues "western alienation" is both an exceptional type of regional alienation and is more salient for many western Canadians than other types of alienation. Two main problems with this conceptualization of western alienation and, by extension, its claim about how we ought to understand alienation in western Canada are identified and explained: a failure to acknowledge the wide variation and complexity of regional alienation within the West; and the marginalization of political alienation. The essay argues that the problem of political alienation is central to understanding the alienation of many citizens in western Canada. Because "political alienation" is rooted in discontent with political representatives, institutions, and procedures for decision-making associated with representative government in Canada, the essay concludes that the curative benefits attributed to regionally biased institutional reform of the federal government (e.g., Senate reform) by proponents of the western alienation thesis are more limited than otherwise suggested. (Lawson, p. 127, 2005)

Checking for In-text cited references to other related works by other authors

References to other authors, works must be present and must be CITED in work or in footnotes. Referring to the seminal works in a field of study locates the new study in a historical context, gives debate and argument authority, and ensures that new scholarship is relevant to the ongoing field of study.

E.g.:

The forced removal of humans from protected areas in order to secure a concept of wilderness and to permit endangered species to live within natural ecosystems is well documented not only within descriptions of the human rights implications, but also in contemporary conceptual analyses of conservation strategies (Gomez-Pompa and Kaus, 1992). (Harrop, p. 296, 2006)

Is there a Conclusion?

An academic article will offer a summation statement that informs the reader of the point the author has made, the results of the study or examination, how these results can be applied, or what information is lacking and what avenues are open for future research.

E.g.:

To conclude, we suggest that ability grouping in kindergarten is related to reading growth at this level. Although this study is preliminary and exploratory, our results suggest that teachers' use of ability grouping may facilitate students' reading progress, regardless of the students' initial reading status. Researchers should use controlled studies to explore whether teachers' use of ability grouping can directly affect students' reading growth in the kindergarten year. (McCoach, O'Connell & Levitt, p. 339, 2006)

Check for a Bibliography of references or a List of Works Cited

Most academic articles will have cited references to other authors and these citations must be fully described in correct format such as APA, MLA, Chicago, etc. If you find a particularly useful article, check the reference list at the end of the work and retrieve articles from the list. Note: Some citation styles allow that a paper that uses footnotes does not need a list of references; this exception would be the only time that an academic article would not have a list of references. When writing an academic paper, only put into the list of references those works that you have cited in the text of the article. Eg. for this discussion of academic articles, the following sources have been cited:

List of Works Cited

Beard, R. (2004, September). Advocating voice: organisational, historical

and social milieux of the Alzheimer's disease movement. Sociology of Health & Illness, 26(6), 797-819. Retrieved 29 May, 2007, from CINAHL with Full Text database.

Harrop, Stuart R. (2007, July) Traditional agricultural landscapes as

protected areas in international law and policy. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, Volume 121(3), 296-307. Retrieved 29 May, 2007 from ScienceDirect.

Lawson, Robert J. "Understanding alienation in western Canada: is

"western alienation" the problem? Is senate reform the cure." Journal of Canadian Studies 39.2 (Spring 2005): 127(29). Retrieved 29 May, 2007 CPI.Q (Canadian Periodicals).

Malviya, S., Voepel-Lewis, T, Ramamurthi, R., Burke, c., & Tait, A.

(2006, May). Clonidine for the prevention of emergence agitation in young children: efficacy and recovery profile. Pediatric Anesthesia, 16(5), 554-559. Retrieved 5 June, 2007, from Biomedical Reference Collection: Comprehensive database.

McCoach, D., O'Connell, A., & Levitt, H. (2006, January 1). Ability

Grouping across Kindergarten Using an Early Childhood Longitudinal Study. Journal of Educational Research, 99(6), 339. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ744350) Retrieved 29 May, 2007, from ERIC database.

McNeely, J., Arnsten, J., & Gourevitch, M. (2006, July). Improving access

to sterile syringes and safe syringe disposal for injection drug users in methadone maintenance treatment. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 31(1), 51-57. Retrieved 29 May, 2007, from Academic Search Premier database.
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Last Updated: 13/06/2017 3:43:37 PM