Evaluating Information

Peer Review

Peer review is a process in which an article submitted for publication in a journal is reviewed by a panel of experts in that journal’s field. If these experts determine that the findings in the article are scientifically sound, they usually make edits or suggestions. The journal editor then sends the article back to its author(s), and those authors make the changes for the article to be published.

This generally means that a peer-reviewed article is accurate and scholarly because its claims have been verified independently by experts in the field.

Note! Peer review is not perfect! Some reputable journals, such as The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine, have published articles that underwent peer review but still contained objectively incorrect conclusions. Always verify your information by checking multiple sources for corroboration.

How to Evaluate a Scholarly Article

Evaluation Tips

To evaluate a scholarly article, review the following elements:

  • Publication date
    • Especially in the medical field, new information and new studies are published constantly. Was the article published recently?
  • Author(s), editor(s), sponsoring institution/organization
    • Are the authors affiliated with a reputable organization? What are the authors' credentials?
  • Publishing journal (and type)
    • Is the article published in a zine, a tabloid, a trade magazine, or a peer-reviewed journal?
  • Methodology or process by which the data was gathered or claims were established
    • Does the article describe how the authors came to their conclusion, or do they just state claims with no factual backing?
  • References listed
    • Did the authors perform a literature review to show what other research had been done on the topic?
  • Other articles citing the source article
    • Is the article cited by other sources as credible? Is the science in the article being built upon by others?
  • Purpose
    • Why was the article written? Is it meant to inform, persuade, entertain, or does it have another purpose?

Search Tips

Search Everything

Here are some tips for limiting your search to peer-reviewed articles from the Search Everything system on the library homepage.

1. Type in your search terms and hit enter.

2. Once you have results, select the Peer-reviewed Journals and Articles checkboxes on the left-hand side of the page.

3. Click on the Apply Filters button at the bottom when you are done adding all the filters you are interested in.

4. You will now see your Active filters at the top of the page. If you want to keep these filters for your next searches, be sure to select the Remember all filters button. This will keep your selected filters for your session until you close out your browser.

5.  You can also see from the search results if the material is peer-reviewed. As demonstrated in the image below, it will say Peer Reviewed below the journal information.

Individual Databases

If you are searching in an individual database, look for filters such as scholarly journals, peer-reviewed or research articles. Each database will have different filters you can select, which can usually be found under the search boxes or to the left of the search results. For tutorials on how to use our most popular databases, see the How do I use popular library databases FAQ.

Online Articles

With articles that you find online, Google the journal's homepage to verify the journal's peer review process (if they have one). You can most often find this type of information on an About or About Us page or any page that provides information about the journal. Peer-reviewed journals usually make their peer-reviewed status very clear, so if you can't find this information, it is unlikely that it is a peer-reviewed journal.

CINAHL Care Sheets vs. Peer-Reviewed Articles

Not all articles are scholarly and not all scholarly articles are peer-reviewed. When doing a search in the CINAHL database, you may have seen results labeled Care Sheets or CINAHL Nursing Sheets. While these articles have some good information, it's important to remember that they are not scholarly journal articles, nor are they peer-reviewed.

Note! The care sheets are not included in the results when you do a search from the Search Everything box on the library homepage.

Additional Resources

Being able to critically read a paper will allow you to make decisions on whether the research being presented is sound. It will also help you determine if the research will support your argument in a research paper or project. The book below will help with developing these skills.