Answered By: ESC Sara
Last Updated: Oct 31, 2023     Views: 546

The most important thing to do when starting any research is to identify keywords that define your topic and then combine them to create a search string.

To locate journal articles on your topic:  

1. Go to the library’s home page. 

2. Using the Subject Guides button, select your subject area from the listing.

3. Within the subject guide you select, you'll see links to relevant article databases.  Click on an appropriate article database to log in and enter your search keywords.

4. Once you have search results, look at the Limiters (usually to the left of search results) for ways to refine your results. You may see a checkbox for scholarly/peer-reviewed journals; click it and your results will now show only items from scholarly/peer-reviewed journals.

Just remember that not every item of content in a scholarly journal is peer/editorial board reviewed--letters to the editor, book reviews, and introductions to special issues are generally not reviewed. But the articles--research reports, case studies, thought pieces, etc. will be reviewed.


Scholarly versus Peer Review

In brief, "scholarly" means that the work is written by an expert for an audience of other experts, researchers, or scholars. "Peer review" is a process that takes this several steps farther. 

When a journal is peer reviewed, that means that when an author submits an article to the journal, the journal sends that article out to some experts in the field. It's double-blind--the author doesn't know who the reviewers are, and the reviewers don't know who the author is. The peer reviewers look for any errors or biases or academic dishonesty. They send it back with either a rejection or recommendations for revision.

There's also editorial review, which is very similar, except that the journal has a board of editors (who are experts in the field, but not anonymous). Most nursing journals use editorial review.

"Refereed journal" is another phrase that describe journals that have one of these systems of review.


How will I know?

When you are looking at a journal, there are some ways to tell if it's scholarly/refereed/peer reviewed. 

1. Google the journal's title and find its website. Look for information on the website about the submission and review process. They will usually say whether they use peer reviewers, or else list the members of their editorial board. 

2. Look at the article itself. There are some things that scholarly/refereed/peer-reviewed articles have in common:

  • they will always have in-text citations and a bibliography,
  • they will always be written by an expert in the field, and you can tell because they list the author's job title and institution,
  • they are written for experts, so the language will be formal, technical, and deal with advanced concepts,
  • there will be no ads or illustrations that are there just to grab your attention,
  • often, the author(s) will thank the reviewers somewhere in the body of the article, usually at the end.

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