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 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.

Articles generally fit into one of four categories

  1. Accepted as is
  2. Minor revisions are required before 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 decide 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 to 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 the 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 include sections such as materials, methods, or results
  • Often focus on a general topic and discusses all relevant articles, already published, on that topic


Complete the form below, or go directly to the form.

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

Databases to Try

How-To Videos and Tips

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 Find It 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 2008. The first link (Highwire Press) will let you access anything in the journal Science from 1997 to the present. So this link will work. The second link (JSTOR Life Sciences Collection) will go back as far as 1880, but it will not show anything from the past 6 years.

If There Is No Full-Text

Basic Search Video

More Search Tips

Find Full-Text from the SciTech Collection Database

Look for the Full text - PDF link. If you do not see a PDF or HTML link to full-text, click the SEARCH @ NDSU button.

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 2002. The link shows access from 1996 to the present, so it will provide the full-text of this article.

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

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.

Finding Full-Text in the TGIF Database

Click on the title of the item or the More link.


If There Is No Full-Text

Extended 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

Need Help?

Contact the Ag Librarian

Agricultural Sciences Librarian
Main Library 218A
Last updated: 1/30/2018