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Evidence-Based Practice: How to Identify Peer-Reviewed Journals

This guide is designed to assist health care professionals to become effective and efficient users of the medical and nursing literature.

What is Peer Review?

You've been asked you to limit your research to peer reviewed articles. What does this mean?

Peer review is the process by which research is assessed for quality, relevancy, and accuracy. 

In a peer reviewed, or refereed journal, each manuscript submitted to the publisher is first reviewed anonymously by a group of experts - peers in the same field of study. These reviewers assess the quality of the research, the accuracy of the findings, and the relevancy of the research to the journal or profession.

Peer-reviewed articles:

  • Are also known as scholarly or refereed articles
  • Are written by experts in the field
  • Are written for other researchers/scholars
  • Are reviewed by the scholar's peers to determine whether they are high-quality pieces of work
  • Use terms and language that are discipline-specific
  • Usually include in-text citations and a bibliography of cited sources
  • May include graphs, charts, etc., related to the topic
  • Are published by a professional organization or society, university, research center, or scholarly press

Peer review is quality control.  You should be able to trust the scholarship of the research. 

  • All of the major journal citation databases (PubMed, CINAHL, etc) provided by the Ascension Wisconsin Libraries include peer review journals, but not all journals or articles therein are peer-reviewed.   Use the Peer Review filter (when available) to refine your results.  
  • Examples that would NOT be considered peer-reviewed are: editorials, letters to the editor, opinion pieces, book reviews, blog posts, etc.
  • Articles on pre-print servers may be in the active process of being peer reviewed, but until they are officially published in a professional journal, consider them only half-baked.  Officially published articles may differ from preprints after changes and suggestions made in the peer review process.  
  • Not sure which journal database to use for your research?
  • Need help limiting your search results to scholarly/peer reviewed materials?
  • We're here to help: Contact your AW Librarians for more information.

Peer Review (in 3 minutes)

  • All of the journal citation databases provided by the Ascension Wisconsin Libraries include peer review journals.
  • Not sure which journal database to use for your research?
  • Need help limiting your search results to scholarly/peer reviewed materials?
  • We're here to help: Contact your AW Librarians for more information.

Citation: A(Very) Brief Introduction

Using Peer Review Filters

This page shows how to use the Peer Review Filters in 3 major databases to limit search results.

Peer Review - PubMed and Medline

Good news! Most of the journals in the Medline subset of PubMed/Medline are peer reviewed. 

Generally speaking, if you find a journal citation in PubMed/Medline you should be just fine.   Be sure to limit to the Medline subset within PubMed.  However, as you can see in the PubMed FAQ below, there is no way to limit your results within the PubMed or Ovid Medline to knock out the few publications that are NOT considered refereed titles.

If you use search techniques designed for evidence-based practice, you should be ok, since peer review is baked into the best evidence process.  Science is about consensus.  

 

Limiting to Medline Journals in PubMed:

Run your search in PubMed

     >  On the right side of the page, you'll see a list of filters to narrow your search results.  

If you don't see Medline listed, click on Additional Filters.

Then choose Journals > Medline > Show.

Back on your results list, be sure to choose Medline to apply this filter to your search results.


If you want to go deeper, Ebsco (a third party vendor) does provide a list of all titles within Medline and lets you see which titles are considered peer reviewed. You can check if your chosen journal is OK - see the "Peer Review" column in the report below to see the very small list of titles that don't make the cut.

Peer Review - CinahlFT

The Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) features a Peer Reviewed subset

You can limit your search from the main search screen by checking the "Peer Review" box.

 

 

 

If you forget to limit your search up front, you can limit your search to peer review after the fact.  From the Search History/Alerts menu beneath the main search box, click on "edit."  A pop up window will display where you can check "peer review."

Peer Review - Ebsco Medline

 

If you forget to limit your search up front, you can limit your search to peer review after the fact.  From the Search History/Alerts menu beneath the main search box, click on "edit."  A pop up window will display where you can check "peer review."

 

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