"Peer review" is an article review process where experts in a specific field will review an anonymous study or article before its potential publication. While there are limits to the the peer review process, this method allows multiple people to rigorously review submitted content (research, ideas, data, results, etc.) to ensure that the the author has met the highest academic standards and has presented relevant findings based on sound methodology. "Peer review" is most often associated with scholarly journals, but books, primarily those published by university presses, can also be peer-reviewed.
In masters and doctoral programs, you are expected to analyze and cite peer-reviewed materials. Keep in mind that even if a journal is considered peer-reviewed, not all of its articles will have been peer-reviewed. Commentaries, opinion articles, book reviews, letters to the editor, and the editor’s introduction likely have not gone through the peer-review process. Check out the following sources to learn more about peer review:
You can use the database filters to refine results based on scholarly or peer review status. Select the filter to see articles that have been peer reviewed as the example below. This screenshot is from ProQuest Research Library and shows the peer review filter on the left-hand side of the results list.
The best place to find out if something is peer reviewed is the publisher’s website. Look for information about submitting articles and/or information about the publishing process.
Additionally, if the journal is in the CityU collection, you can use the Journal Finder to see if the journal is peer reviewed. Keep in mind that not all articles within a peer reviewed journal are necessarily peer reviewed.
The process of peer review generally applies to journal articles, but it is possible for a book to be peer reviewed as well. Although many books go through some sort of editorial or review process, there is not an easy method for determining whether a book is peer reviewed.
One method for locating peer-reviewed books is to take a look at book publications from university presses. Books published by university presses almost always go through a process of peer review. The process of peer review for university presses typically involves two or three independent referees who will initially review the manuscript. If the manuscript receives positive review, the university press will send it to their editorial board, who are all faculty members, for final review. This review process is required in order to obtain membership into the Association of University Presses. You may view the member directory of the Association of University Presses here:
Another method for determining whether a book is peer reviewed is to locate book reviews within scholarly journals on that particular book. These book reviews may provide a deep evaluation regarding the quality of scholarship and authority in the book.
To find a review for a particular book, search for the title in the main library search bar, and filter by "Book Review" under "Content Type"
Systemic inequities in the peer review process reflect the broader inequities within academia. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2021), as of fall 2018, around 75% of of all full-time faculty in degree-granting postsecondary institutions are white. The same systems that exclude communities of color also impact the type of research that gets published---this can be evident in everything from who is granted the time and money to conduct research to the types of research that are valued in publishing.
Additionally, individual biases held by both reviewers and editors, whether those are intentional or unconscious, can impact the peer review process at an institutional level. This is true both in the review process itself and, in the case of editors, the scope of the research topics and methodologies that are chosen to be included in a collection or valued more broadly within the realm of academic publishing.
While the peer review process is in place to ensure the reliability of published material, the process itself isn't without its flaws or deserving of criticism. In fact, there are several types of peer review processes and some are better than others. For example, things like double-anonymous (sometimes called "double-blind") peer review can help prevent bias based on the perceived race or gender of the author(s) by the reviewer(s), whereas a fully transparent peer review process, like open peer review, can help hold reviewer(s) accountable and allow for more objective reviews.
You can read about the different types of peer review below.
The main types of peer review and their limitations are presented below. It should be noted that none of these fully address the issues of bias against certain types of research. This is especially true for research that disrupts traditional methodologies or work that challenges or criticizes existing power structures and systems.
The most traditional form of peer review. Identities of the reviewer(s) are hidden from the author(s). This process can aid in perpetuating reviewer bias.
The identities of both the reviewer(s) and the author(s) are kept anonymous from each other. This can help protect a work from reviewer bias but does not protect an author from biases held by an editor.
The same as double-anonymous but the identity of the author(s) is also hidden from the editor(s).
The most transparent option, in this form of peer review, identities of both reviewer(s) and author(s) are known to each other. However, this term can also mean a process in which a reviewer's identity is revealed at some point during the review or publication process not necessarily at the outset.
To read more about the limitations of peer review and the impact this has on scholarly conversation, please see the below resources.
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