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BIOL 1113 & 1123: Principles of Biology

1. Peer Review

Research Process

The point of academic articles is for researchers to share the findings of the studies or experiments they have performed. The point of academic journals is to give researchers a place to publish their research.

In the past, researchers would often make up findings or use very weak experiment design in order to support false claims or to pretend they made a huge discovery. Many of these false findings were published in academic journals.

In order to detect weak studies and publish only the strong studies with significant findings, journals began implementing a peer review process. In other words, each article that’s submitted to the journal gets reviewed by two or three other experts in that field of study. The peer reviewers are looking at many things, including the validity and strength of the findings.


Why does peer review matter?

Articles with weak studies or false findings still get published from time to time, but it is much less frequent thanks to peer review, which catches most poorly-designed research.

As a student researcher, your assignments typically require you to use peer-reviewed articles. Many library databases contain articles that are not peer-reviewed, such as magazine articles and newspaper articles. Magazine and newspaper articles are not peer-reviewed by experts in the field and therefore should not be used to support scientific arguments made in a college paper or other scientific writing.

It’s important for you to know how to tell if you’re looking at a peer-reviewed article or an article that is not peer-reviewed.


How to Tell If It's Peer Reviewed

In most cases, the article is peer-reviewed if:

  1. You found the article through the library website.
  2. The article has a references list at the end (usually 5 references or more).

Test Yourself!