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Library Orientation for Nursing

This information is focused toward nurses conducting research via the Emory Libraries

What Does “Peer-Reviewed” Mean?

Peer-reviewed is a type of quality control.  It means that an article is reviewed by other scholars or experts in the field (peers) before being published.  Other terms for peer-reviewed are “refereed,” “scholarly, or “academic.”

These peers have reviewed the article for methodological errors, flaws in judgment, potential bias, originality, etc. Only after an article has gone through this rigorous review is it published in a journal with other peer-reviewed articles. In other words, a peer-reviewed article should be of high-quality.

If a journal is peer-reviewed, the articles in it are too.  However, editorials, commentary, letters to the editor and book reviews are not peer-reviewed, even if you find them in a peer-reviewed journal.  Newspaper or magazine articles can be useful for finding background information during the research process, but they are not peer-reviewed. Society or organization newsletters and blogposts are not peer-reviewed.

Scholarly vs. Popular Journals


Popular Magazines

Peer-Reviewed Journal


Articles written by hired reporters, edited by magazine editors.

Experts/scholars in the field

Article Acceptance Procedure

Reporters and journalists are hired and paid to write the article.

Reviewed by other scholars or experts in the field before being published.


General information about current events or popular culture, written in easy to understand language.  May be narrative or opinion, may contain data and statistics from outside organizations.

Original research or experimentation. 
Written in a language for the academic community. Contains a complete bibliography.

Overall Appearance

Glossy paper, lots of ads, heavily illustrated.

Sober and serious, often contains tables, graphs and charts. Few, if any, ads.



Search Ulrich's Periodicals Directory

If you're unsure whether an article is peer-reviewed, search for the journal title in Ulrich's Periodicals Directory. A referee jersey icon will appear next to the journal title if it is peer-reviewed.  Journals that are peer-reviewed will contain peer-reviewed articles.  Exceptions include letters to the editor, opinion pieces, commentaries, etc.