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Health & Society Resources @ UTSC

Search this guide to get started with research in public health.

What is Peer Review?

Peer review is a process in which scholars critically appraise each other's work, in order to determine if a scholarly journal article should be published in a peer-reviewed journal. Each paper submitted to the journal is read and evaluated by subject experts for validity, importance, and originality. The purpose of peer review is to improve the quality and readability of the paper, and to ensure that only high-level research and scholarship is published in the journal.

A couple of reminders about peer review:

  • Peer-reviewed articles are also called "refereed."
  • Not all of the content in a peer-reviewed journal has undergone peer review. For example, editorials, letters to the editor, book reviews, and other types of information are not peer-reviewed. However, research and review articles are generally peer-reviewed.
  • Only scholarly articles are peer-reviewed. Academic books do not go through the peer review process, but they are still scholarly sources.

Is Your Journal Article Peer-Reviewed?

How can I tell if an article is peer-reviewed?

Peer-reviewed articles are published in peer-reviewed journals. The easiest way to make sure that you're searching for peer-reviewed journals is by applying the peer-review limiter during your search. A peer-review box or tab is available in many databases.

An example of the peer-review limiter in a ProQuest database

Another way to check if a journal is peer-reviewed is to look it up in Ulrich's Periodicals Directory (also known as UlrichsWeb). Ulrich's is a database that contains information about periodicals, such as journals, newspapers, magazines, and more. One of the pieces of information Ulrich's contains is whether or not a journal is peer-reviewed (also known as refereed).


Looking up a journal in Ulrich's Periodicals Directory

1. Open Ulrich's Periodicals Directory.

2. Ulrich's maintains information at the journal level. This means that you need to search it by journal title, not article title. Type in the journal's title in the search box, and click the green search button. 

For example, let's say you want to find out if the following article is peer-reviewed: Szyszkowicz, M., Zemek, R., Colman, I., Gardner, W., Kousha, T., & Smith-Doiron, M. (2020). Air pollution and emergency department visits for mental disorders among youth. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(12), 4190. You should search for International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in Ulrich's.

Screenshot of a search in UlrichsWeb.

3. In Ulrich's, peer-reviewed journals are called "refereed" journals. In the search results, an icon of a referee's jersey (a striped shirt) indicates that a journal is peer-reviewed/refereed. 

Screenshot of UlrichsWeb search results, with the referee jersey icon representing peer-review highlighted.

Since the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health has an icon of a referee's jersey listed next to it, this means that the journal is peer reviewed.

4. Remember that not every article published in a peer-reviewed journal is peer-reviewed. Articles like editorials and books reviews don't go through the peer-review process. However, research articles are peer-reviewed.

More Information on Peer Review