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EFB 102: General Biology : Find an Article

Find articles in a database

Peer-reviewed or refereed articles appear in scholarly publications and have been reviewed by a panel of experts prior to publication. Think of this like quality control for journal articles.  You can limit your search in some databases to peer-reviewed if you need this type of article.  The databases listed below are just a few of our heavily used databases which contain mainly peer-reviewed articles.

Best bets

What is "Peer Review"?

What is peer-review?

Peer-review means that a panel of experts has read the work and deemed it worthy of publication. 

For example, when Dr. McGee publishes in the journal Ecological Applications, his work is reviewed by other researchers in the environmental sciences field. The reviewers check to make sure he reviewed appropriate background literature, his methods are sound, and his conclusions are appropriate.

If Dr. McGee was to write about his favorite sports team or recipe, it probably wouldn't be published in a scholarly journal because he isn't is expert in those areas of study. 

Primary scientific literature (also called empirical research) contains original research and is often the first reporting of this scientific data. Find these types of articles in peer-reviewed journals.

Determine peer-review

It can be intimidating to read a technical peer-reviewed article. It can also be difficult to determine which articles are peer-reviewed. Here are some tips that may help you:

-What are the authors' affiliations? Do they have PhDs? Do they currently work in an academic/research institution? 

-Do you see a series of dates (submitted on... accepted on...) anywhere? How current is the issue? Is that important?

-Does the paper conform to traditional scientific journal format, (abstract, intro/literature review, methods, results, discussion, conclusion)?

-Is there a rather long list of references?

-Are there acknowledgments to reviewers, grants, or contributors?

-Does the article look "boring"? Compare it to something like Time or National Geographic.

If you can answer yes to most of these questions you probably have a peer-reviewed journal. If you are having difficulty you can contact a librarian and we would love to help you!