Peer Review in 3 Minutes

Scholarly articles. Academic articles. Peer reviewed articles. You may have heard these terms
used by your professor, but what do they mean? Essentially,these are all different
ways of describing the same thing: research articles that have been
published in scholarly journals. But what is a research article, and how does it get published
in a scholarly journal? First of all, the article reports a
scholar’s research practice and findings. And, it’s written with an audience
of other researchers in mind. Finally, in order to be published and
accepted by the scholarly community, the article must pass
several quality tests. The most important of these
tests is called peer review. We can get a better understanding
of the role of peer review if we look at the academic
publishing process as a whole. Let’s imagine a researcher who wants to share a discovery
with the academic community. To do this, he writes a draft article
describing his research and findings and submits it for publication
in a scholarly journal. Here’s where the article has
to pass its first test: The journal’s editor reads
over the article to decide whether it’s a good fit for her journal. If it is, she sends copies of the
article to a group of experts to evaluate the article’s quality, in a process called “peer review”. This is the article’s second,
and most important, test. These experts are the author’s “peers”, since they are working in
the same research area. And since they are making a
judgment about the article, they’re sometimes called referees — so peer reviewed articles are
sometimes called “refereed articles”. Each reviewer evaluates the article by asking questions to judge the quality
and significance of the research. Questions like, “What is this research about?” “Is it interesting?” “Is it important?” “Is the methodology sound?” “Are the conclusions logical?” and “Are the findings original?” Based on the answers to these questions, the reviewers decide whether the article
is worthy of publication in the journal. They then make a
recommendation to the editor — either approve the article for
publication, or reject it. Even if they recommend
publishing the article, they usually expect the
author to make revisions. The editor, however, makes
the final determination whether the article should be
approved, rejected, or revised. Rejection is common, though. The most prestigious journals are very
selective about the articles they publish, so they tend to have
high rejection rates: some journals reject more than 90%
of the submissions they receive. From the time the researcher
first submits his draft article to the time it is finally published, several months – or years
– may have elapsed. Once the journal is published, it is made available to subscribers, which are usually university libraries, because individual subscriptions
are very expensive, often hundreds or thousands
of dollars a year. By the way, like all established systems, the peer review system has its critics, and scholars continue to think about how the peer review process
might be improved. The library has tools to help you
find peer reviewed research. If you want to know more about
the peer review process or need help finding
peer reviewed articles, ask a librarian for help!

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