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HDFS 360: Critical Thinking in HDFS (Corvallis)

Applying critical thinking to your research, evaluating evidence and arguments.

What is Peer Review?

(The following explanation has been pulled from OSU Library How-To page "Scholarly vs. Popular Articles".

Peer review is a quality-control process used by many academic journals.  Authors who are doing research submit a paper they have written to a journal. The journal editor then sends the article to the author's peers (researchers and scholars who are in the same discipline) for review. The reviewers determine if the article should be published based on the quality of the research. They evaluate this quality based on a number of factors, including:

  • Did the researchers use appropriate methods?
  • Is the research question important?
  • Is the data valid?
  • Are the authors' conclusions reasonable, based on the data?
  • Is the research original - does it add to our knowledge of the topic?

They do not repeat the experiment or study to see if the results were accurate. This process is important because it validates the research and gives it a sort of "seal of approval" from others in the research community.

Look at the Article

Scholarly, peer-reviewed, original (empirical) research articles are research articles that have been evaluated and approved by other experts in the discipline (the process of peer-reivew) before being accepted for publication in a journal. They almost all follow a predictable pattern and contain the following elements:

1. AUTHOR:  The author(s) is always listed with the credentials that identify the author's expertise, such as university or research affiliation or the author's academic degree. Contrast this to news articles where the author may or may not be identified (and affiliation or academic credentials are not identified).

2. CONTENT:  There is an abstract at the beginning of the article which summarizes the content. The article almost always follows the pattern of having these sections: introduction, methods, results, discussion, conclusion, and references. News articles, scientific letters and book reviews do not follow this pattern. 

3. ORIGINAL DATA:  Usually, original data will be presented in as charts and graphs illustrating the results of experiments. Contrast this to a news feature, which pulls together results and ideas from other researchers' work. EXCEPTION - Reviews can also be peer reviewed. While they do summarize other researchers' work, authors of a review also add their own summary and repackage the work in a new way to help demonstrate something that is original.

4. LANGUAGE:  The article language tends to be formal and technical, and is particular to the discipline in which it is written.  It is geared to other researchers in the same subject.  Contrast this with popular articles that are written at an informal and basic level for easy understanding by the general public.

 

Evaluate Your Source

  • Does the source have a bibliography? This can lead you to other sources.
  • Is there an author listed as part of the citation? Judging authority can be difficult without an author.
  • Is the journal refereed (peer reviewed)?
  • How old is the source? Will this matter for your topic? Currency of information can be important. Some aspects of a topic may need currency more than others.
  • What other terminology is being used either by the author or by the database? Keep an eye out for other words you can use in your search statements.
  • Do the OSU Libraries own the journal (either in print or electronically)? If we don't own it, it will take more time to get your hands on the source.

Database for Determining Peer Review!

Checking to see if a journal is peer reviewed just got a LOT easier! Look up the title in UlrichsWeb online.