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HLTB15: Introduction to Health Research Methodology

Winter 2021

What are Original Studies?

Original journal articles present research findings from studies conducted by the paper's authors. Primary research must have been performed; the article cannot just be a summary of previous research on the topic. Original journal articles can report on quantitative studies or experimental research, including cohort studies, survey research, case studies, randomized controlled trials, and more. 

Review articles (literature reviews, systematic reviews, meta-analyses), textbooks, or encyclopedias do not count as original. This is because they summarize, analyze, or interpret information from previously published literature. 

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 For example, editorials, letters to the editor, book reviews, and other types of information are not peer-reviewed.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, if you wanted to know if the article "Genetic basis for sex differences in obesity and lipid metabolism," published in the journal Annual Review of Nutrition, was peer-reviewed, search for Annual Review of Nutrition in Ulrich's.

Enter the title of the journal into the search box in Ulrichs Web.

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. 

The referee jersey icon indicates that a journal uses peer review.

Since Annual Review of Nutrition 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.