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Primary Sources in the Sciences

Peer Review in the Sciences

Scholarly peer reviewed journals (also called refereed journals) are academic publications that carry out a review process of an author’s work prior to its publication.  In the sciences, this means research using the scientific method.  Experts in the same field or discipline are tasked with providing an objective evaluation of the ‘scientific soundness’ of a work by scrutinizing the methodology used to conduct the research, and by examining how the data or information is represented, analyzed, and discussed.


The purpose of the review process is to ensure the publication of high quality research articles.  A submission that undergoes peer review may be accepted, accepted with revisions, or rejected for publication. It therefore follows that research articles published in a peer reviewed journal are by definition, peer reviewed.*


Many databases provide an option in which users can ‘limit’ their search results to articles from peer reviewed journals, other databases or search engines may limit results to scholarly articles, 'including peer reviewed articles' (as a subset).  Web of Science is an example of a database in which all the journals cited within this collection are peer reviewed.


The VIU Library's Journals Link (on the library's main webpage) has been updated and now displays when a specific journal is peer reviewed.  However, in cases where peer review is not noted (e.g. Journal of Cell and Animal Biology), users need to either select the link from this Journal page (above) or go directly to the homepage of the journal in question.


Once on the journal's page, look for information about the journal that describes either the submission process or that provides information about the reviewing process.  If this page discusses the peer review process, then it’s a peer reviewed journal.  Not all peer reviewed journals tell readers specifically that they are ‘peer reviewed’; instead, readers may be told indirectly by a description of the process in which a team of experts evaluates and reviews submissions.


It should be noted that the peer reviewing tradition is a debated issue in the academic world with some controversy over the validity of this practice.  Nonetheless, the peer review process is still considered important within the sciences.


* Note: Remember, not all items published in a peer reviewed journal are research articles; some articles are editorials and review articles.


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