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Biology 260 (Bio 260)

Is it Peer Reviewed?

Peer review is a process scholarly articles go through before they are published. Scholarly articles are sent to other experts in the field (peers) to ensure that they contain high-quality, original research important to the field. This is a measure of quality control other types of literature don't go through. 

If you can't tell whether or not a journal is peer-reviewed, check Ulrichsweb.

  1. access the database
  2. type in the title of the journal
  3. peer-reviewed journals will have a referee jersey ("refereed" is another term for "peer-reviewed") - example below

Primary v. Secondary

Both primary and secondary sources can be useful to you in your research, but you need to be able to distinguish which is which. Both types of information sources can be found using library databases, and both may even be peer-reviewed sources. So how do you tell which is which? Refer to the table below for some quick ways to determine if the source you've found is a primary source or a secondary source.

Primary Sources
  • Describe original research, or original analysis of someone else's data
  • Articles and papers by the researcher(s) presenting data and research findings
  • Describe methodology and findings
  • Terminology: Often scientific terminology and jargon; authors assume familiarity with the subject
Secondary Sources
  • Discuss research done by others
  • News, magazine articles, books, and review articles explaining, analyzing, or commenting on research
  • Published AFTER primary sources (“second”)
  • Terminology: May use less jargon and/or assume less familiarity with subject

Differences between Popular, Scholarly, & Trade Publications

An important part of gathering and evaluating sources for research projects is knowing the difference between popular, scholarly, and trade publications. ​

  • Popular magazine articles are typically written by journalists to entertain or inform a general audience,
  • Scholarly articles are written by researchers or experts in a particular field. They use specialized vocabulary, have extensive citations, and are often peer-reviewed.
  • Trade publications may be written by experts in a certain industry, but they are not considered scholarly, as they share general news, trends, and opinions, rather than advanced research, and are not peer-reviewed.

The physical appearance of print sources can help you identify the type of source as well. Popular magazines and trade publications are usually glossy with many photos. Scholarly journals are usually smaller and thicker with plain covers and images, In electronic sources you can check for bibliographies and author credentials or affiliations as potential indicators of scholarly sources.

  Popular Magazines Scholarly (including peer-reviewed) Trade Publications

Current events; general interest articles

Research results/reports; reviews of research (review articles); book reviews 

Articles about a certain business or industry
Purpose To inform, entertain, or elicit an emotional response To share research or scholarship with the academic community To inform about business or industry news, trends, or products 
Author Staff writers, journalists, freelancers Scholars/researchers Staff writers, business/industry professionals
Audience General public Scholars, researchers, students Business/industry professionals
Review Staff editor Editorial board made up of other scholars and researchers. Some articles are peer-reviewed* Staff editor
Citations May have no citations, or may be informal (ex. according to... or links) Bibliographies, references, endnotes, footnotes Few, may or may not have any
Frequency Weekly/monthly Quarterly or semi-annually Weekly/monthly
Ads* Numerous ads for a variety of products Minimal, usually only for scholarly products like books Ads are for products geared toward specific industry

Scholarly Articles (Databases)