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PLSC 444

Peer Review

Peer Review in 3 Minutes
This video explains the process of peer review, and its role in scholarly publication. (From the NCSU Libraries.)


The peer review process begins when an author submits an article to a journal to be considered for publication. The editor of the journal will then pass the article on to experts in the same field of study. These experts will review the article for flaws such as problems with the way the research was conducted, false data, plagiarism, or a poorly conceived hypothesis. The number of experts asked to review an article may vary from one to three or more.



Benefits & Drawbacks

Peer review can:

Help screen out work that is poorly executed becaue of:

  • the quailty of writing
  • the deisng of study
  • the thoroughness of the research

Help insure high academic standards, resulting in journal articles readers can trust to be:

  • authoritative
  • methodologically sound
  • relevant



  • an article gets reviewed by someone who is unqualified to properly evaluate the material
  • reviewers give very different evaluations of the same article

These flaws in the peer review process lead some to believe that it is time for a new system. However, no one has yet proposed a truly viable alternatie to peer review that would avoid the pitfalls of the peer-review process while working at least as well to guarantee academic exellence.

How Can You Tell?

Some databases provide an option to narrow your results to only show articles from peer-reviewed journals.


ProQuest databases, like Plant Science, or SciTech Collection


EBSCO databases, like Academic Search Premier

Other Databases (e.g. Web of Science or Scopus)

Not all databases will indicate whether or not an artilce has been peer-reviewed. However, some are strict about what they includ in their database. For example, the Web of Science only includes articles from scholarly/peer reviewed journals, or other scholarly publications (e.g. conference proceedings).


Still Can't Tell?

Look for evidence that the peer review process is required by the journal in which the article was published.

Below is an example of how to find out if the following article was published in a journal that uses the peer review process:

Nyamai, P.A., Prather, T. S., & Wallace, J. M. (2011). Evaluating restoration methods across a range of plant communities dominated by invasive annual grasses to native perennial grasses. Invasive Plant Science and Management, 4(3), 306-313. doi:10.1614/ipsm-d-09-00048.1


Step 1: Access the Journal through the Library Website

Step 2: Check the Aims/Scope or Author Guidelines/Information for Authors


Is it Original Research?

Identifying Original Research

There are a variety of article types published in peer-review journals, but the two most common are original research articles and review articles. They look very similar but have different structures and purposes.

When looking for original research articles (or primary scientific literature), first ask: does it have a methods section? This is the section where the authors explain what they did and how they did it (i.e. how they conducted their own - original - research). Review articles will not have a methods section.

It also helps to understand the different purposes of each type of article:

Original Research: reports original research about new data or theorie that have not been previously published, such as

  • results of new experiemnts
  • newly derived moedles or simulations

Review: review the current state of knowledge on a topic

Both types will generally have sections called: abstract, introduction, and references. But only the original research articles will have a methods section.

For example, here are the different section headings from two articles:

Original Research Article

Review Article

  • Abstract
  • Materials and Methods
  • Results and Discussion
  • Conclusions
  • Acknowledgements
  • References
  • Abstract
  • Public Opinion
  • Current GM Crops and Safety Assessment
  • Legitimate Scientific Debate
  • Notes
  • References


What Methods Were Used?

It is important to note the types of methods used in the original research article, especially if your instructor requires a specifc method type for an assignemnt.

For PLSC 444, the assignment requires that article refer to research that used an experimental design and has a table showing an analysis of variance.

Below are examples of original research articles that each used different methods:

  • Experimental (field experiments, treattments in randomized complete block design, plant sampling, etc.)
  • Meta-Analysis (data collected from other independent sources, such as other research article, is examined and analyzed to determien overall trends)
  • Mixed-Methods: Experimental and Interviews (plant samples, farmer interviews)

Find Articles

Suggested Databases & How to Search Them

Web of Science Core Collection - Search Tips Video

YouTube Playlist with other videos about using the Web of Science database.

Find Full Text from Web of Science

To find the full-text of an article from the Web of Science database, click on the Search @ NDSU button.

It can be found from the results list or the article's information page.

A new window will open to search the library resources to see if we have access to it. If we have access, you should se a window with links to acces the journal. Make sure to note the information about what years we have access to. In this example, the article was published in 2015. The first link (BioOne 2) will let you access anything in the journal Canadian Journal of Plant Science from 2011 to the present. So this link will work. The second link (E-Journals) will go back as far as 1957 all the way to the present.

If There Is No Full-Text

Scopus - Search Tips Video


Links to various seach tips for Scopus: Scopus Tutorials

Finding Full-Text from the Scopus Database

  • Click on the SEARCH @ NDSU button to see if we have access to the journal the article is published in.
  • Click on the View at Publisher to go the article's page on the publisher's website. If you are on a campus computer this should recognize whether or not the library has access and then provide full-text if we do. However, if you are off-campus or are using wifi, it might not show full-text even if we have access. This is why the SEARCH @ NDSU button is a good choice when off-campus or using wifi.

If There Is No Full-Text

Simple Searcing in CAB Abstracts


More Search Tips - Quick Guide PDF:

Finding Full-Text in the CAB Abstracts Database

If full-text is availabe directly in the database, you will see an orange View full text button. Clicking that will open a new window with a PDF of the article. If you do not see this button, click on the article title to go to the article's information/record page.

Try the DOI link or the URL link. These should take you to the article on the publisher's website. If you are on-campus and the library has access, you should see the full-text.

If There Is No Full-Text

Evaluating/Reading an Article

Check out the following links for tips on reading and evaluting a research article:

Need Help?

Contact the Ag Librarian

Agricultural Sciences Librarian
Main Library 218A