Descriptive Transcript

All visual content in this video is described or included in audio. 


This tutorial will discuss what peer review is, how the process of peer review works, which types of sources are peer reviewed, and the pros and cons of the peer review process.

Often professors will require that “peer reviewed” sources are used for an assignment, but what exactly is “peer review”? In a scholarly context, peer review is an official process in which experts in a field assess the quality, validity, and originality of research articles submitted for publication. Peer review is an important part of the larger publication process and on average can take between 3 weeks to 3 months. ​

Two groups of people play a role in the peer review process; the author(s) and the reviewer(s). The process comes in two main forms; single-blind and double-blind. For single-blind peer review, one of the two groups of people is unaware of who the other is, so, the reviewers might not know the author(s) but the author(s) will know who is reviewing their work, or vice-versa. In a double-blind peer review neither party knows the other. The goal is for reviewers to be as unbiased as possible, and to be able to protect their identities.​

Peer reviewed articles are considered the academic standard in many disciplines. Through the peer review process, scholars attempt to make sure that only the best information is published, and so it can be seen as more reliable. Additionally, because researchers know their work will be reviewed before publication, they often strive to produce original work of a high quality. However, it is important to remember that not all scholarly materials are subject to peer-review.  ​

This process is specifically for academic journals, and the articles published in them. This means that books, even when they are scholarly, are not considered "peer reviewed."  When searching the library you can select the "Peer-reviewed Journals" filter on the left side of the results page. You can also look for the purple, "Peer Reviewed" icon beneath individual search results. However, you should make sure that you are not limiting yourself to only peer reviewed sources, since many topics will benefit from books, news, and other resources which are not in this category.​

There are many benefits of peer review which have helped it to remain a key part of academic publishing. A few of the most important reasons scholars rely on peer review, and why your professors recommend these resources, are that this process provides valuable feedback, verifies the validity of the information, makes sure research is not repeated, allows journals to select the most important work, detects plagiarism, and protects against fraud. Knowing that the source you are using has already been verified by other professionals can help you feel more confident in your research, but like all things peer review is not perfect.​

Some of the drawbacks of the peer review process are that it delays the publication of research, it is difficult to maintain anonymity, it may protect established opinions, it is not always effective in detecting errors, the standards of peer review vary by publication, and there is the potential for reviewers to favor authors like themselves. As you can see, there is a lack of standardization in this process and so we cannot always assume that the process has been applied effectively. Also, there is always a chance for bias and preferential treatment when relying on individuals. Because of this, you should always evaluate the articles you are using even when they have been peer reviewed. You can use the library's tutorial on how to evaluate journal articles to help with your own review.

Need help? Have questions? Ask a Librarian!