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Peer Review

This guide will help you understand what a peer-reviewed article is, how to find them, and how to identify them "in the wild".

Identifying Peer-reviewed Articles

Identifying Peer-reviewed Journals

This table describes the qualities of different types of publications you might encounter in your research to help you determine if what you are looking at is likely a Peer-reviewed journal - or something else. 

Newspapers and Magazines

 

  • written by reporters, journalists or staff copywriters;
  • written for a general audience; plain language
  • focused toward a demographic (ex. women) or interest (ex. hockey)
  • lots of glossy, eye-catching images (possibly more photos than text)
  • lots of advertising aimed at the general audience and/or demographic;
  • articles are:
    • unstructured
    • rarely have citation or references listed
  • meant to entertain, inform or persuade/sell

Trade/Professional Journals

 

  • written by academics and/or professionals, some articles may be written by staff copywriters (may not be listed);
  • few articles may go through a peer-review process (typically hard to determine which are reviewed  - may not clearly state)
  • written for the practitioner or professional in the field;
  • assumes a knowledge of the field in order to understand content; written in technical language using jargon specific to the field;
  • glossy images may be used to both entice readers and support articles;
  • regular feature articles (ex. book reviews);
  • advertising aimed at the practitioner or professionals in the field;
  • articles may/may not be structured article format (ex. abstract, methodology, discussion, conclusion, etc.);
  • limited references (if present);
  • meant to provide news, commentary or information on a particular trade or profession.

Scholarly/Academic Journals

 

  • written by scholars/experts
  • majority of articles are reviewed by other experts -- Peer-Reviewed (refereed) *;
  • written for other scholars in the field - assumes a high-level of knowledge in the field to understand content;
  • written in technical and/or analytical language;
  • limited images or graphs to support articles (typically black and white);
  • limited advertising (typically self-advertising);
  • articles are long and follow a structured format (ex. abstract, methodology, discussion, conclusion, etc.)
  • lots of references to other peer-reviewed articles to support the research
  • meant to share/provide original research and/or analysis

* Not all scholarly/academic journals ARE Peer-Reviewed (refereed). The terms "peer-reviewed" and "scholarly" are not interchangeable (although they are often used as such).

 

Examining the Journal

The best way to know if an article is peer-reviewed is to look at the journal. There are a couple of ways to approach this. 

 

 

 

 

1. The physical journal 

If you can access the physical journal - check the masthead. The masthead can usually found in the first pages or sometimes at the back. It contains publishing information about the journal. If you don't see it, check other issues within the year - some publications will only publish this information once a year. 

In the masthead for the Canadian Journal of Nursing Leadership, it clearly states: 

"The journal is refereed"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This journal goes a step further on its table of contents and indicates which of the articles are in fact peer-reviewed, and which are not. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. The journal webpage

The next best place to check is the journal's official webpage (you can often find this in the masthead) - and particularly the page that offers information to authors looking to submit their articles. This information tends to be more expansive as it's not taking up expensive journal pages.

Example of Review Process from the Journal of Nursing Education webpage

"All manuscripts undergo pre-publication double-blind peer review by the Editorial Board and reviewers. Final decisions regarding manuscript disposition are made by the Editors, and the Editors mediate all interactions between reviewers and authors. Authors are notified by e-mail as soon as possible about the acceptability of their manuscript. When authors are asked to revise their manuscript following peer review, the Journal’s general policy is to permit only one major revision. When the second round of peer review results in recommendations for further substantive revision, in most instances, the manuscript will not be accepted. Only in rare and unusual circumstances will authors be permitted an opportunity to revise and resubmit the manuscript a second time for final consideration."

Looking Closer... examples of journals

Canadian Nurse

1. From the masthead and examination of the physical journal

  • the masthead states:

"Peer-reviewed feature articles appearing in this publication have undergone a double-blind peer-review process"

What I read from this is that not all articles in this journal are peer-reviewed - only the featured ones (and possibly not even all featured articles). In this issue, there are only two featured articles - the rest are regular departments such as feedback, perspectives, reflection, etc.. There is no indication in the journal if the two featured articles published were reviewed or not.

  • Further exploration of the journal reveals that many of the authors are "communications consultants", 'freelance journalists", etc. or not listed at all (likely staff writers) - we know that peer-reviewed articles are written by experts in the field, so these articles aren't likely to be peer-reviewed.
  • The content is not highly academic, the article format is not structured (abstract, methodology, etc.), the content is geared to the practitioner and there is lots of advertising including a list of advertisers at the end of the issue.

2. On the webpage:  canadian-nurse.com (the journal's webpage) they state that effective 2019: 

"Canadian Nurse is not an academic journal.", and

"Please note that we are no longer accepting original research papers for peer review."

Given all this, I would be very cautious using an article from this publication if I needed a peer-reviewed article for my research. This is more a trade publication than a scholarly one. It would appear that there are some articles from earlier issues that were peer-reviewed but it might be challenging to figure out which are and aren't.

NOTE: all Canadian Nurse articles (featured and otherwise) currently show up as "peer-reviewed" in databases. (effective 2019/10/09)

Canadian Journal of Infection Control (CJIC)

1.  From the masthead and examination of the physical journal:

  • No outward statement or indication in the masthead, table of contents or articles themselves that they are peer-reviewed.
  • A self-advertisement near the back of the issue states that the CJIC is "a leading international peer-reviewed journal providing a platform for knowledge transfer and academic discourse in the field..." the statement refers authors to refer to the website for further guidance.
  • The physical journal itself is an interesting hybrid as half its pages are colourful, glossy advertisements aimed at professionals in the field; there is a page listing all advertisers. These do occur only at the beginning and the end of the journal and are not scattered throughout the actual articles. 
  • The articles themselves are written by experts and are scholarly in format (ex. abstracts, methods, results, etc.)

2. From the IPAC webpage

The same statement as above; that the CJIC is "a leading international peer-reviewed journal providing a platform for knowledge transfer and academic discourse in the field..."

Clicking on the CJIC Guidelines for Authors we find the following statement:

"Articles of original research accepted for publication in CJIC will appear in one of the following categories, all of which (except Letters to the Editor and Errata) undergo the same peer review" the guidelines provide instruction for submission to a double-blind review.

From the webpage I feel confident that any articles I use from this journal are peer-reviewed (excepting letters and errata); despite the amount of advertising in the physical journal.

Drug Development & Delivery

1.  From the masthead and examination of the physical journal:

  • No outward statement or indication in the masthead, table of contents or articles themselves that they are peer-reviewed.
  • lots of embedded advertising - sometimes difficult to separate the advertising from the articles
  • articles are unstructured; some have limited (3-4) references

2. From the drug-dev.com website

  • Clicking on the Submission guidelines we find nothing to suggest that articles in this publication go through a review beyond the editor.

Given the lack of statements in either location, I would not use articles from this journal if I needed peer-reviewed sources. This is a clear example of a trade journal. 

Lab Medicine

1.  From the masthead and examination of the physical journal:

  • No outward statement or indication in the masthead, but a self-advertisement about the website states:

"Lab Medicine moves to double-blind review -- "...Although peer reviews of manuscripts submitted to Laboratory Medicine have always been single-blind - we are proud to announce that peer reviews for this journal are now double-blind..."

from this statement, we can extrapolate that Lab Medicine peer-reviews their articles. 

  • limited advertising - mostly self, or related associations
  • articles are structured with lots of references

2. From the labmedicine.com website

"About the journal: Lab Medicine is a double-blind, peer-reviewed biomedical journal"

This statement is probably enough to decide that this is a trusted journal. Clicking on Author Guidelines we can also see the peer-review process: 

"All submissions to the journal are initially reviewed by one of the Editors. At this stage manuscripts may be rejected without peer review if it is felt that they are not of high enough priority or not relevant to the journal. This fast rejection process means that authors are given a quick decision and do not need to wait for the review process.

Manuscripts that are not instantly rejected are sent out for double-blind peer review, usually to two independent reviewers. (See instructions below about proper preparation of the manuscript for double-blind peer review.) Based on the feedback from these reviewers and the Editors' judgment a decision is given on the manuscript.

If a paper is not acceptable in its present form, we will pass on suggestions for revisions to the author."

Journal of Gerontological Nursing

1.  From the masthead and examination of the physical journal:

  • No outward statement or indication in the masthead, table of contents or articles themselves that they are peer-reviewed.
  • limited advertising - mostly self, or related associations
  • articles are structured with lots of references

2. From the JGN website

"The Journal of Gerontological Nursing is a monthly, peer-reviewed journal publishing clinically relevant original articles on the practice of gerontological nursing across the continuum of care in a variety of health care settings, for more than 40 years."

This statement is probably enough to decide that this is a trusted journal. Clicking on Information for Authors we can also see a detailed peer-review process stating:

 "All manuscripts undergo pre-publication double-blind peer review by the Editorial Board and reviewers..." the statement lists exactly what reviews are looking for. Further down the page statements about Letters to the editor will be published at the discretion of the editor (i.e. they won't go through review)

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