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Has a professor ever asked...

That your sources be from peer reviewed sources, but you are still not sure what that means? Read on to find out what peer review means.

What does Peer Review mean?

Peer review means that a board of scholarly reviewers in the subject area of the journal, review materials they publish for quality of research and adherence to editorial standards of the journal, before articles are accepted for publication. If you use materials from peer-reviewed publications they have been vetted by scholars in your field for quality and importance.  

Scholarly Journals, Popular Magazines and Trade Publications

The kinds of articles students encounter most are scholarly journal articles, popular magazine articles, and trade publication articles.  This chart explains the major distinctions between these types of publications that publish articles. Remember, even though some professors may want you to consult older print archives of scholarly journals, all types of publications are available online today.


Differences between Scholarly Journals, Popular Magazines & Trade Publications






Expert (scholar, professor, researcher, etc.) in field covered. Author is always named.

Journalist; nonprofesional or layperson. Sometimes author is not named.

Business or industry representative. Sometimes author is not named.


Usually includes notes and/or bibliographic references.

Few or no notes or bibliographic references.

Few or no notes or bibliographic references.


News and research (methodology, theory) from the field.

Current events; general interest.

Business or industry information (trends, products, techniques).


Written for experts using technical language.

Journalistic; written for nonprofessional or layperson.

Written for people in the business or industry using technical language.


Scholars or researchers in the field.

General public.

People in the business or industry.


Usually reviewed by peer scholars (referees) not employed by the journal.

Reviewed by one or more editors employed by the magazine.

Reviewed by one or more editors employed by the magazine.


Plain; mostly print, sometimes with black and white figures, tables, graphs and/or charts.

Glossy, with many pictures in color.

Glossy, with many pictures in color.


Few or none; if any, usually for books or other professional materials.

Many, often in color.

Some, often in color.


Usually monthly or quarterly.

Usually weekly or monthly.

Usually weekly or monthly.


Developmental Psychology (published by the American Psychological Association).

Rolling Stone (commercially published).

Monitor on Psychology (published by the American Psychological Association

Chart created by: SDSU Library & Information Access


More about the Peer Review Process

In academic journals the articles submitted are reviewed by scholarly peers. This means that articles are submitted to the editor, and the editor sends the article to reviewers who read and evaluate the article. These reviewers are other scholars who are experts on the subject of the article. Often all traces of the author’s identity are removed from the article draft before it is reviewed and this process is referred to as “blind review.” Because these reviewers are judging the quality of the article, or acting as referees for the quality of the article, you may hear professors call peer-reviewed journals, refereed journals.  The high standard of writing, content, and research quality set by article reviewers results in the highest quality scholarly articles on your subject, and this is why your professors want you to use these sources. Using these high quality sources will improve the quality of your own work. 

Finding Peer Reviewed Articles in Library Databases

Now that you understand the importance of peer review, how do you know if your article is peer reviewed? Many library databases including those owned by EBSCO and ProQuest give you the option to limit your search results to only those results that are peer reviewed. Look for the option to limit your results either on the search page or after the results are returned as a way to refine your search.

If you are still unsure if an article has been you can try the following things:

  • Find the journal’s website.  Look on the website for information about the editorial policy, submission process or requirements for author’s submission.  This section of the website will often give insight into whether or not the journal has a peer review process. 
  • If you still cannot determine if it is peer reviewed, please feel free to call, text, or email a librarian.

Questions? Contact eref@sdsu.edu