Journal articles that are peer-reviewed have been critiqued by other experts before publication.
To determine if an article is peer-reviewed or not, you need to check if the journal in which the article was published is peer-reviewed. You can do this by using the database Ulrich's web. For instance, in the following citation:
Barthlott, W, Wiersch, S, Čolić, Z, & Koch, K 2009, 'Classification of trichome types within species of the water fern Salvinia, and ontogeny of the egg-beater trichomes', Botany, 87, 9, pp. 830-836.
Botany is the journal title. Using Ulrich's web, type in the name of the journal, in this case Botany. (Do NOT enter the title of the article.) If the journal is listed as "refereed" (another word for peer-reviewed), your article is in a peer-reviewed journal. Therefore, most articles in this journal will be peer-reviewed. Exceptions to peer-reviewed articles in a peer-reviewed journal include news items, commentaries, and letters to the editor.
In some databases, such as Academic Search Complete , you can click on the name of the journal and the database will list information about the journal, including if the journal is peer-reviewed or not. Other databases allow you to limit to see only results that are peer-reviewed. To determine if you can limit to peer-reviewed journals, look in the database's help section.
In the sciences, a scholarly source is usually a primary article appearing in a peer-reviewed journal. A primary scientific article or source is one where the author is describing new experiments or new observations done by the author or authors. Primary articles are usually divided into sections: introduction, method, discussion/results, and conclusion.
Another type of article that appears in peer-reviewed journals is the review article. Review articles summarize and compare several studies or sets of observations. A review article may look like a primary article in that it may be broken into similar sections like introduction, discussion, and at times even a methods section. However, a review article is not a primary source. The author of a review article is not describing new experiments or observations done by his or herself. Instead a review article is a summary of other scientist's works.
Secondary sources or articles are summaries of primary research, usually written for the popular press or geared toward non-scientists. Some examples of secondary sources are newspaper articles, magazine articles, book chapters, blog postings, and news stories.
To find a scholarly article for your research paper or project, try searching one of the Core Databases listed on the home page of the Biology subject guide. Enter keywords relevant to your topic.
Once you have found a relevant article, skim to find out if it is a primary article. Ask yourself:
- What new observations or experiments are the authors doing?
If the paper only describes the actions or experiments of other researchers, the article is not primary. It is a Review article or a secondary source.
Once you have found a primary article on your topic, use Ulrich's Web to find out if the article appeared in a peer-reviewed (refereed) journal or not.
If your article is primary and peer reviewed, it is a scholarly source.