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Research Guides

ENVIR 302: Environmental Communication (Gilbert): Peer Review and Scholarly Sources

Peer Reviewed and Scholarly Sources

Scholarly books and articles are "scholarly" because they have gone through a vetting process called peer review. The peer review process basically happens like this:

  1. A researcher or scholar writes a book or article in his or her subject specialty;
  2. The scholar submits the text to a scholarly publisher;
  3. The scholarly publisher finds other scholars (expert peers) in the same field and asks them to read and review the article or book for errors and to make sure that it is academically rigorous (often steps 2 and 3 are repeated as the reviewers find errors or weak arguments, which forces the scholar to revise parts of the book or article and resubmit it for publishing);
  4. Finally, once the author's "peers" conclude that the text is a legitimate work of scholarship, it is published.

Why is this important for you?

The information in a scholarly text is more reliable and credible

than information in popular sources like newspapers and magazines.

Also, scholarly books and articles tell you a lot about common arguments and ways of thinking used by scholars in a particular discipline.When you are writing a paper or giving a presentation on a topic in that discipline, it is helpful for you to be aware of those arguments and ways of thinking.  To help evaluate a scholarly publication from a non-scholarly, look at this great chart from Western Carolina University.

How Can I Tell If a Journal is Peer-Reviewed?

Go to the Journal website:

  • Look at the citation for your article;
  • Find out what Journal it is published in;
  • Go to the website of that Journal;
  • Find out if there is an Editorial Board for the Journal;
  • You can also look at Author guidelines for submitting an article to the Journal for clues;
  • If there is an Editorial Board, this Board coordinates the peer-review process (see above) for every article that is submitted to the journal for publishing. 
  • Then you can be confident that the Article is peer-reviewed and most definitely scholarly.


Checking the Journal website also helps you verify that that the journal itself is not a Predatory Journal,  or a journal that profits from scholarly publishing by accepting every, or the vast majority of papers, into the journal for a fee.   

Another Way to Find out if a Journal is Peer-Reviewed

Search for the title of the journal and look for the "Refereed" (Peer-Review) symbol. [UW restricted]