Peer-reviewed articles, often called scholarly or refereed, are articles that are critiqued by impartial reviewers prior to publication. The reviewers are often anonymous and are considered experts in the field that the article/journal is published in. Reviewers are asked to judge the quality of the article by addressing the validity of the research, whether or not the methods chosen address the question(s) asked, and the accuracy of the data. If an article does not meet standards set by the journal it is usually sent back for revisions or is rejected for publication.
Some common characteristics of peer-reviewed articles are:
An article that meets one or more of the above criteria is likely to be peer-reviewed, however non-peer-reviewed resources may also have some of these traits. One example common in the animal science discipline is extension publications - while scientific in nature these often do not go under reviewed before being published and disseminated.
You can often check if a journal is peer-reviewed by visiting the publisher's website. The description of the journal will often contain the words "peer-reviewed" or "refereed". There may also be instructions for authors that describe the review process for submitted articles.
Many databases have an option to limit search results to only those that are peer-reviewed. However be aware that while these filters limit results to items that have been published in a peer-reviewed journal, it does not always mean every individual item has been peer-reviewed. Usually only original research articles are peer-reviewed; not items such as book reviews, commentary, letters, news, or opinions - these items may still show up in search results when a peer-review limit is used.
The database Ulrichsweb can be used to quickly check if a journal is peer-reviewed, but remember it is just a tool and you should still examine the journal closely if you are not familiar with it.
Note: Only 5 simultaneous users are allowed at a time. If you are receiving an error message when trying to access Ulrichsweb, wait a few minutes and try again.
To check if a journal is peer-reviewed, enter the journal title (not the article title) in the search box. Click on the title from the results list and look for "Academic / Scholarly" in the Content Type field and "Yes" in the Refereed field. If there are a number of journals with a similar title you may need to use the ISSN number to find the correct one.
You can check to see if the journal your article is from is Academic/Scholarly and/or Peer-reviewed by using the Index - Ulrichsweb.com, (Remember there are only 5 simultaneous users, so if you can't access the index try again later).
Then click the Ulrichsweb.com link. Or just click the title link above.
Under "Quick Search" choose "Title" then enter the title of the journal (NOT the title of the article) into the box. Click the "Submit" button.
On the "Search Results" page click on the title of the journal.
Under the heading Document type: it should have Academic/Scholarly.
Under Refereed: it should have Yes.
If a journal is not peer-reviewed it will not have the heading Refereed at all.