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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Research Articles and Peer Reviewed Journals

A step-by-step guide to understanding and finding research articles and peer reviewed journals

How Do I Know if an Article is Peer Reviewed?

Determining whether a source is expertly written and valuable for your research is a good skill to learn. For more details about this skill, read on for tips and check out this guide on determining if sources are scholarly.

Components of Research Articles

Research articles will have some recognizable components, but they can depend upon field and scope. Some of the things you can learn to identify within articles are descriptions of research design and methodology, indicating a specific research question and set procedures for the results and analysis of the research. Additionally, many scholarly articles will include a literature review of previously completed research in the subject area to provide context and set up their own research question. Another good strategy is to look at the works cited, appendices or notes - has the author cited other articles that are research-heavy and scholarly in nature?

Listed below are some clues to help identify research articles. However, it should be noted that numerous exceptions occur for all of the points listed below. Therefore, the following information should be used as a guideline when looking for research articles

Topic: Research articles tend to be highly specific in nature, relate to a particular field, or specialty within a field, and are written by authors who have done research in the field.

Audience: The target audience is other researchers, colleagues, students, and specialists in the same field. Research articles are written for the scholarly community, rather than a general audience.

Language and Content: The language of research articles is formal, generally does not use the first person, and includes jargon used in the field. Research articles are written to contribute to the knowledge base of the discipline.

Authors: Research articles may have several authors. The organization, institute, or professional society the authors belong to will be listed.


Identify Refereed Journals

Listed below are some clues to help identify refereed journals. However, it should be noted that numerous exceptions occur for any and all of the points listed below. Therefore, the following information should be used as a guideline when looking for refereed journals

Issue identification: Each issue has a publishing date, volume number and issue number. Generally a volume number is consistent throughout the calendar year, with each issue assigned a corresponding number e.g. vol. 55, issue 4.

Length: A refereed journal may have one to fifty articles, with most having eight to eighteen.

Advertising and graphics: Very little, if any, advertising is included in refereed journals. Any advertising that is included will directly relate to the field. Generally journals of this nature do not have photographs and use black print on white paper. The size of the journal may vary in size from a small paperback size to a large magazine format.

Table of contents: In addition to research articles, refereed journals may contain book reviews, literature reviews, and essays. Therefore, just because an article is published in a refereed journal, it does not necessarily mean that it is a research article!

Publishing: Refereed journals are usually published regularly - once a week, once a month, every quarter, or annually. The majority of journals are published four to six times per year and are often published by a professional society, organization, or research institution.

Editorial board: Refereed journals have a peer review process. The editorial board is listed (generally at the beginning of the journal) along with the organizations they are affiliated with. Information about what types of papers are chosen for publication, the selection process, the length of papers accepted, and how to submit a paper is also provided.

Indexing: A listing of where the refereed journal is indexed is often provided.

Title: The title of a refereed journal usually has an "academic" sounding name (e.g. 'Journal of Applied Metalworking').

Availability: The location, call number, and availability of the journal can be determined by using the online catalog.