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American History Basic Research: Peer-Reviewed Articles



What are Scholarly and Peer-Reviewed Journals?

Most databases offer an option to limit your search to scholarly or peer-reviewed articles. While this option can be helpful, be aware that the databases can sometimes be inconsistent (and questionable) in what they identify as scholarly or peer-reviewed. Ultimately, you will want to make the determination of whether or not an article is appropriate for your needs using some of the strategies listed below or in consultation with your professor.


Scholarly or peer-reviewed articles usually have the following features:

  • The journals in which they appear are often published quarterly at most.
  • The articles are substantial (not just 2 or 3 pages).
  • The author(s) are named, along with their affiliations (such as university or research institute).
  • The journals in which they appear contain little or no advertising, glossy pictures or other decorative graphics. Illustrations are usually limited to charts and graphs.
  • The articles include a list of references. (This is helpful, because if you find one good scholarly article, it will lead you to other potentially useful resources).
  • The articles are written at a level assuming a certain level of prior knowledge. Unlike articles in newspapers or popular magazines, which are written for the general public, scholarly articles are written for an audience of scholars, practitioners or students in the discipline.

Is it peer-reviewed?

  • If you find an article in a library database, often the database will identify the journal as being peer-reviewed or refereed.
  • Search for the journal title in MLA Directory of Publications, which identifies important aspects of journals.
  • Check the journal's front or back pages, or its website, for evidence of a peer-review process. This information is often found under information for authors, submission guidelines or editorial policies.
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