Peer review or refereeing is a journal editing process that ensures articles meet standards of good scholarship. Academic articles and papers are examined by a panel of other scholars in the field (the author's peers). The panel may decide to accept the paper, recommend revision, or reject it completely. Peer-reviewed resources are considered to be the most reliable sources. (But always consider other elements such as currency and coverage.) Many professors require you to only use peer-reviewed resources in assignments.
Not all journals use a peer review process. You can verify whether a journal is peer reviewed by finding information about the editorial board at the front of the print journal or looking at the websites for print and e-journals.
Some databases allow you to narrow your search to return only peer-reviewed results. While different in each database, look for an option that says "scholarly," "Refereed," or "Peer-reviewed."
Intention: To inform and entertain a general audience.
Appearance: Generally contain few colorful photographs. May have technical charts and graphs as necessary.
Scope: Articles are shorter, more superficial, often including a generalized overview of topics. May be useful as introductory background reading to a new subject.
Language: Language is generally non-technical with no specialist knowledge assumed. Unfamiliar terms and concepts are usually defined.
Author: The authors are often journalists with little or no specialist knowledge of the subject. Their credentials are rarely given.
Research: No original research other than background reading and interviews is involved.
References: Rarely cites sources.
Peer Review: Articles are approved for publication by the editor.
Adapted from James Cook University. (2011, November 3).Evaluating Sources. James Cook University Library, https://libguides.jcu.edu.au/c.php?g=162319&p=1063730.
Intention: To present and/or report on original research.
Appearance: Usually colorful and attractive; articles often have lots of illustrations and photographs.
Scope: Articles are longer, more in-depth and narrowly focused. There is usually an abstract (summary) of the article.
Language: Technical language (jargon) which assumes specialized background knowledge.
Author: Authors' credentials as an expert are explicitly presented, usually on the first page.
Research: Presents the results of original research.
References: All articles are rigorously referenced with all sources cited. Usually contains footnotes and bibliography.
Peer Review: Articles are approved for publication after review by the author's scholarly peers.