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How to tell if you've found a peer-reviewed article

Not everything published in a peer-reviewed journal is a scholarly article. You may also find literature reviews, book reviews, and opinion pieces. However, you can learn to easily identify scholarly articles. Here are a few tips.

Peer-reviewed articles almost always:

  • List authors' names, affiliations and email addresses (such as, George T. Pirate, Park University, george.pirate@park.edu)
  • Are 10-40 pages in length
  • Use section headers throughout the article, similar to these:
    • Abstract
    • Introduction
    • Literature Review
    • Methodology
    • Results
    • Discussion
    • Conclusion
  • Include a list of citations or references

Click here for an example from Pirate Search.

If you're not sure whether you've found an original research article, please contact a librarian for assistance!

Understanding Terms:

Peer-reviewed, Empirical, & Qualitative vs Quantitative

Need some help with these frequently-used terms?


Peer-reviewed

Peer-reviewed journals (often called "scholarly" or "academic" journals) contain original research articles.

These articles have been reviewed by other scholars in the field - the authors' academic peers. The reviewers work to ensure the integrity and quality of the research being reported upon.


Empirical

Empirical articles are based on experimentation or observation. In other words, they describe the results of research. Peer-reviewed articles usually describe empirical research.


Qualitative vs Quantitative Research

Peer-reviewed articles may describe either qualitative or quantitative research.

Qualitative research tries to understand who, what, how, when, and why. It explores the nature of something. Typical approaches include observation, interviews, and focus groups.

Quantitative research describes how much or how often. It relies on statistics and variables to prove or disprove something.

Here's a short video describing the difference.


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