5.1 Levels of Peer Review

Peer-reviewed articles are published in peer-reviewed journals. The phrase peer-reviewed may be used interchangeable with the terms scholarly or academic but it is important to note that not all scholarly or academic articles are peer-reviewed. Peer-review is a term applied to a specific type of scholarly or academic article or journal. Peer-reviewed journals and articles may also be called refereed journals and articles.  Not all scholarly or academic journals are peer-reviewed and not all articles in peer-reviewed journals go though the peer-review process. It is important to understand peer-review at the journal level and at the article level.

Peer Review at the Journal Level

“A peer-reviewed journal is one that has submitted most of its published articles for review by experts who are not part of the editorial staff.”  (International Committee of Medical Journal Editors , 2001)

The keyword in this definition is most.  This means that not all articles in a peer-reviewed journal have gone through the peer review process. There are many different types of articles that are published in peer-reviewed journals. If most of these articles have been peer-reviewed, the journal is considered peer reviewed.

Graphic of person holding a magnifying glass to an article.

Determine if a journal is peer-reviewed

First look at the journal’s website for information about their peer-review process, if they have one.  Take a look at this webpage from the New England Journal of Medicine that describes their peer-review process. Once you have established that a specific journal is peer-reviewed, you must look at each article to determine if it has been peer-reviewed. Different types of articles will have different standards and may not be peer-reviewed even if it is published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Peer Review at the Article Level

There are several types of articles that may be published in a peer-reviewed journal including research articles, review articles, opinions, editorials, news, and book reviews. Select each article type below to see if it is peer-reviewed.

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Attribution

Image by Mohamed_Hassan from Pixaby