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Business Resources : Identifying Peer-reviewed articles

Gateway to business and related resources

Some definitions

Sometimes you'll hear terms like "scholarly", "academic", "peer-reviewed", "refereed", "empirical study", or "research" used interchangeably to describe a type of journal or article. They are related but not necessarily the same.

Here's a quick rundown:

  • scholarly or academic journals: usually refers to the journals in which the scholarship or research of an academic discipline is published. These journals include research articles but may also include book reviews, editorials, letters to the editor, etc. Scholarly journals usually are, but not always, peer-reviewed.
  • peer-reviewed or refereed journals (or articles): refers to those journals that submit contributed articles to a panel of experts in the discipline for review prior to publication. Students are often advised to seek out peer-reviewed articles, as the peer-review process provides greater assurance that the research is sound.
  • research or empirical research: Research articles describe and document research conducted by the author(s). Empirical studies are based on data derived from observation or experimentation. Research articles usually comprise an abstract, introduction, methodology, results, discussion, list of references and appendices.
  • professional or trade journals: journals that are written for a particular profession or discipline but are not peer-reviewed. May or may not be considered scholarly.

How to Identify Scholarly Sources

Identifying Scholarly or Peer-reviewed Article

Most databases offer an option to limit your search to scholarly or peer-reviewed articles. While this option can be helpful, be aware that the databases can sometimes be inconsistent in what they identify as scholarly or peer-reviewed. Ultimately, you will want to make the determination of whether or not an article is appropriate for your needs using some of the strategies listed below or in consultation with your professor.

Scholarly or peer-reviewed articles usually have the following features:

  • The journals in which they appear are often published quarterly at most
  • The articles are substantial in length (not just 2 or 3 pages)
  • The authors are named, along with their affiliations (such as university or research institute)
  • The journals in which they appear contain little or no advertising, glossy pictures or other decorative graphics. Graphics are usually limited to charts and graphs
  • The articles include a list of references. (This is handy, because if you find one good scholarly article, it will lead you to other potentially useful sources).
  • The articles are written at a level assuming a certain level of prior knowledge. Unlike articles in newspapers or popular magazines, which are written for the general public, scholarly articles are written for an audience of scholars, practitioners or students in the discipline.

Is it peer-reviewed?

  • If you find an article in a library database, often the database will identify the journal as being peer-reviewed or refereed.
  • Search for the journal title in Ulrichs Periodical Directory, which identifies peer-reviewed or refereed articles
  • Check the journal's front or back pages, or its website, for evidence of a peer-review process. This information is often found under information for authors, submission guidelines or editorial policies.