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PHY 3313: Experimental Methods III

Evaluating a Source

Check the Validity of your Journal Article

There is no one place to go to verify the validity of your journal articles, rather each article must be weighed on its own merits and what you know of the author, journal, and journal publisher.  Here are a few things that weigh in favor of an article being more scholarly:

Article level - 

  • Written in a standard format, for example Abstract, Introductions, Materials and Methods, Discussion, Conclusion
  • Contains plenty of references and in-text citations
  • Author affiliation is clearly stated
  • States a hypothesis or research plan and sticks to topic.
  • Clearly states dates for when article was submitted and when it was accepted

Journal level -

  • Scope of the journal is clearly stated, and articles are written to that scope
  • Editors and editorial board are clearly stated, and experts in the field
  • Journal is affiliated with a society or institution
  • Journal is indexed in an established database such as Biological Abstracts or MEDLINE

For open access journals, inclusion of a journal title in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) can be a positive indicator.


Recognizing Refereed Journals

1. Some things to consider when determining if an article is peer reviewed (source):

  1. Make sure you have a journal article; also not everything in a peer-reviewed journal is peer reviewed, journals often other content such as editorials or book reviews which are not required to go through peer-review
  2. The following can usually be found in a peer-reviewed article
    • An extensive reference list with in-text citations
    • Specific style/organization: abstract, introduction, methods, results, conclusion
    • Data given in charts, tables or graphs
    • Formal language - particularly an long article title that covers all components discussed in the article
    • Includes dates for submission and acceptance of the article 

2. Some databases, like Academic Search Premier, allow you to click a check-box to say you only want peer reviewed journals.  Although sometimes databases only indicate that a resource is scholarly without covering the level of peer review the articles undergo.

3. Search the Journal's website for Author Guidelines:

Author Guidelines highlighted

4. Still not sure if your journal is peer reviewed (refereed)?  Ask a Librarian: