PLSC 491

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 stud. 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.

Articles generally fit into one of four categories

  1. Accepted as is
  2. Minor revisions are required befor acceptance
  3. Rejected, with option to resubmit with substantial revisions
  4. Rejected outright (because the topic is not a good fit for the journal or because there are serious problems with the research and/or writing)




Peer review can

  • help screen out work that is poorly executed because of
    • the quality of the writing
    • the design of the study
    • the thoroughness of the research
  • help direct authors to the most appropriate places to publish
  • help insure high academic standards, resulting in journal articles that readers can trust to be
    • authoritative
    • methodilogically sound
    • relevant




  • Sometimes, an article gets reviewed by someone who is unqualified to properly evaluate the material.
  • Sometimes, the reviewer may not like the ideas presented in the article-or the author of the article.
    • Sometimes, different reviewers give very different evaluations of the same article for these reasons.
    • When that happens, an ethical editor will seek out other experts to review the work but they may also simply decie to reject the article.

These flaws in the peer review process lead some people to believe that it is time to get rid of the system. However, no one has yet proposed a truly viable alternative to peer review that would avoid the pitfalls of the peer review process while working at least as well to guarantee academic excellence.




How Can You Tell?

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


ProQuest databases, like Plant Science, or SciTech Collection


EBSCO databases, like Academic Search Premier


Turfgrass Information File (TGIF)



Other Databases, Like Web of Science

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

*For more detailed instructions on using the library journal list, see our tutorial:


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


Original Research vs Review


Orignal research articles and review articles:

  • are written by scholar(s) or researcher(s) in the field
  • are written for other scholars/researcers
  • provide a list of references at the end of te article
  • are often published by a scholarly society or publisher
  • are written in the language of the discipline (i.e. contain specialized terminology)
  • have a sober, serious look



Original Research Articles

  • Follow the scientific format (generally)
    • abstract
    • introduction
    • methods / materials and methods
    • results
    • conclusion / discussion
    • references
  • Authors are reporting on research they conducted themselves (methods section is a big indicator)

Review Articles

  • May include an introduction and a conclusion, but the majority of the paper represents a summary and analysis of previous research
  • Do not includes sections such as materials, methods, or results
  • Often focus on a general topic and discusses all relevant articles, already published, on that topic

Extension Articles

While searching for articles (especially if searching in Google, Google Scholar, or some databases), you may come across some Extension articles. These are a variety of documents published by the Extension units of land grant universities. Some are single page pamphlets/flyers, some are longer articles, and some are booklets/books. Usually the publisher will be indicated, so you should be able to tell if it is an Extension document. 

Some of these documents have been peer reviewed, and they may even discuss original research. However, do NOT use them for your assignment for this class.

Here are some examples:








Find Articles

How to: Web of Science

Web of Science: Core Collection - Search Tips

Check out this YouTube playlst with other videos about using the Web of Science. 

How to: SciTech Collection (ProQuest)

Check out the following links for more tips for searching ProQuest Databases (including the SciTech collection).

How to: CAB Abstracts

Simple Search in CAB Abstracts

Check out the Quick Guide PDF for more searching tips:


Also, you can find links to more videos and other searching tips/help from the homepage of the database, in the bottom right corner.

How to: TGIF

Before you can access the TGIF database, you will be asked to agree to the terms and conditions.

For tips on searching TGIF, check out their Search Help section.

General Tips

Need Help?

Contact the Ag Librarian

Agricultural Sciences Librarian
Main Library 218A
Last updated: 1/30/2017