Understanding peer review

The peer review process

Peer review is a formal quality control process completed before an academic work is published. Not all academic literature is peer reviewed, but many academic journal articles and books will be. Peer-reviewed literature is sometimes also called “refereed literature”.

“Peer assessment”, where peers and colleagues give general feedback on your work, is sometimes also called peer review. However, “peer review” in published research refers specifically to the process described below.

Researchers who are experts in the same field review the submitted work to see if the research and arguments are sound, original, and of high enough quality to be published. Peer reviewers will provide feedback for the author to incorporate before the article is published, or they may advise that the work is not published at all. 

If the peer review process is conducted to a high standard by relevant, respected experts, it can improve the quality of published academic literature and encourage original, high-quality research. However, peer review takes time, which affects how quickly an article can be published. The quality of peer review processes can also vary across publishers and reviewers.          

Find peer-reviewed literature

In most cases, you can identify whether an academic work is peer reviewed by looking at the publisher’s website or using a “peer reviewed” filter when searching a database. 

Academic journals

Some journals require all research articles to be peer reviewed. You can look up the journal’s website to find out their peer review process. Be aware that other content in these journals, like reviews and editorial pieces, may not be peer reviewed. 

Another way to check if a journal has a peer review process is to look it up in a journal directory.


  • Search a journal’s International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) or title (not the article title) and see if it is listed with this black ”refereed” icon.  
  • Click the journal title for more details and a link to the journal website.

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)

  • Search for open access journals. Click the journal title in the search results to check for links to their peer review process.

Some academic journal databases will include an option to only search peer-reviewed journals. This option will appear either in their “advanced search” function or as a filter for their results page once you’ve searched. The Library catalogue also has a “peer-reviewed journals” filter on its search results page.

Academic books 

Check the book publisher’s website for their review processes. University presses are highly likely to publish peer-reviewed academic books.

If the book is open access, check to see if it’s listed in the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB), which only includes scholarly, peer-reviewed books. 

Academic books are less likely than academic journals to be clearly identified as peer reviewed in databases. Searching an ebook collection that focuses on research will increase your chances of finding peer-reviewed books.

You can also search for a book’s title in the Library catalogue or an academic journal database to see if other researchers have reviewed it and commented on the book’s peer review process. 

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