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Evaluate Information

A how-to guide covering topics related to the evaluation of information.

Understand Peer Review

Overview

"Peer review" is an article review process where experts in a certain field will review a study or article before publication. While there are limits to the the peer review process, this method allows for multiple people to review submitted content (research, ideas, data, results, etc.) before publishing. This is a rigorous review process, which is meant to ensure that the highest academic standards are met and relevant research is produced.

In masters and doctoral programs, you are expected to analyze and cite peer-reviewed articles. Keep in mind that even if a journal is considered peer-reviewed, not all of the 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: 

Finding Peer-Reviewed Sources

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.This screenshot shows the "Peer Review" filter in ProQuest

 

How can I tell if something is peer-reviewed?

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 journal are peer reviewed. 

Limitations of Peer Review

Systemic Inequities in Peer Review

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.


Types of Peer Review and their Limitations

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. 

Single-Anonymous

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.

Double-Anonymous

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.

Triple-Anonymous

The same as double-anonymous but the identity of the author(s) is also hidden from the editor(s).

Open Peer Review

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. 

References and Further Reading

To read more about the limitations of peer review and the impact this has on scholarly conversation, please see the below resources.