Peer review, a process of evaluating a manuscript by the authors’ professional or academic peers in the same subject area and making recommendations on its acceptance by a journal, is an important practice for ensuring the quality of published literature. Because peer review provides a level of vetting to ensure that the research and research conclusions are sound, it’s important to understand and be able to identify peer reviewed articles when you’re searching the literature for an evidence-based practice project or question, or to answer a patient care question.
Peer-reviewed journals are the best place to be sure that the articles you are looking at are peer-reviewed. However, please keep in mind that some content types published in a journal are never peer-reviewed, such as editorials and letters to the editor.
When searching a database, you may want to narrow down your search to peer-reviewed articles. In some databases, such as PubMed or Web of Science, most articles are peer reviewed. Other databases, such as CINAHL, allow for filtering search results by peer reviewed status.
You may also want to ensure that an article was published in a peer reviewed journal by looking the journal up in a specialized source, such as Ulrich’s Global Serials Directory (Ulrichsweb).
Ulrichsweb offers a wealth of information on individual journals in multiple disciplines. It has separate records for print and online versions of the same journal and offers multiple details, such as the list of databases in which the journal is indexed. It also tells you whether the journal is refereed (another word for ‘peer-reviewed’).
On the search results list you can always tell the refereed status by the presence or the absence of the referee shirt icon to the left of the journal name.
Once you click on a journal title you’re interested in, the journal record will display the Refereed field and the refereed icon (see highlighted field below).
Keep in mind that it’s always advisable to verify the journal’s peer review status directly on the journal’s website (typically linked from the journal’s Ulrich’s record), especially when Ulrich’s does not display the refereed icon and does not have the Referred field in the record.
If you have any questions about peer review or the peer review status of a specific journal, please don’t hesitate to Ask Us!