how do I know if a book/article is peer-reviewed?
November 4, 2007 12:54 PM   Subscribe

college-essayfilter: how can I tell if a book or journal article has been peer-reviewed?

1) Are there any kind of general guidelines that let you know whether a book or journal is peer-reviewed?

ex: Can I assume that things from a university press are peer-reviewed? Can I assume the Encylopedia Brittanica is peer-reviewed? (I ask that one because my professor-- who is, I believe, insane-- said that that was the only peer-reviewed encyclopedia.) How can I find out if journals are peer-reviewed? Would it say so on their website?

2) Is the 'Economist' peer-reviewed? (Yea I'm pretty sure it isn't but-- *please say yes! please say yes!*)

3) Know any peer-reviewed books or journals that might have information about the growth of the internet in Africa? *bonus points for extremely current books/journals*
posted by emmatwofour to Education (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
1) No. You need to ask on an individual basis. No, things from a University Press aren't peer reviewed unless they are peer-reviewed journals. I would not assume anything about Brittanica w/o writing and asking them first, or checking their website. Journals will say on their website.

2) No. BUT, the authors always have sources. And these sources are frequently peer reviewed. You can e-mail the author and ask for their sources. If it is special report that you can find on their web, they typically list their sources on the website.

3) You should be able to find journal articles on this subject. Do you have access to a university library? A librarian can help you find something.
posted by Eringatang at 1:07 PM on November 4, 2007

No, things from a University Press aren't peer reviewed unless they are peer-reviewed journals.

Not entirely true. I am a research assistant for a historian who just had a book published by UNC Press a couple of months ago. His book went through a vigorous peer review process. From what I have heard, it is quite common for academic presses to have books peer reviewed prior to publication in lieu of in house fact checking.
posted by HotPatatta at 1:14 PM on November 4, 2007

1) You probably do a lot of your research by using the database searches in your library's website. If you don't, that's a good thing to do, so start doing it now. Usually, when you are preparing a search, you can choose to check a box that says something like, "peer-reviewed journals only," "scholarly journals only," or something similar. The search results will then only include materials that have been peer-reviewed. (You can also choose "full-text articles only," which will save you precious time and trouble.)

2) Books from a university press may count as "scholarly sources" for the purpose of your essays (you should ask your prof), depending on the content and intended audience of the book. Encyclopedia articles NEVER EVER EVER IN A MILLION YEARS count as a scholarly source, and neither, I'm sorry to tell you, do popular magazines like The Economist. One criterion you can use for considering the question is, "What is the audience?" In general, when you are trying to find high-quality scholarly works, you are looking for books and articles that are written for an audience of other professionals in the field. General reference works like encyclopedias, and magazines, are written for a popular audience, and their content is rarely "scholarly" in the way your prof certainly is looking for.

3) Go to your library databases, and choose a good general one like Academic OneFile. If you don't know how to do this, ask your reference librarian (not the person at the check-out desk; find the reference desk, or use the library website's "ask a librarian" feature, if it has one). Search for "internet Africa," and you will find articles like "Cyberspace Across sub-Saharan Africa: Moving from technological desert toward emergenet sustainable growth (the diffusion of the internet)", by Mbarika, Jensen, and Meso.
posted by not that girl at 1:15 PM on November 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Most peer reviewed articles will thank the reviewers in the acknowledgments sections. So look for something like 'The authors thank so-and-so and three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments' or something like it.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 1:17 PM on November 4, 2007

Huh, HotPatatta. I've never heard of that before.
posted by Eringatang at 1:19 PM on November 4, 2007

For number 3 -- I doubt anyone here will do your research for you, so unless they happen to be an expert and have citations at their fingertips, don't hold your breath. However, tips:

Google scholar!
Type in your search keywords, like 'africa internet growth'. On the results page, click on 'Recent articles' on the top.

The key to wading through the academic literature is to recognize that research is performed by communities of researchers who build off one another's work. For example, there are likely a number of economists or analysts or whatever that specialize in African infrastructure; they all know each other and compete and collaborate, and this is how the body of literature gets built.

For this reason all you need is one key paper or one key author as a starting point. Then you can look to see what papers he cites, and what papers cite him (the results in google scholar have links to make this really easy). You will start to see 'classic' papers recurring in the citations; you can generally trust that authors of such papers are recognized experts in their field and are thus you can probably trust their current research, whatever it is.
posted by PercussivePaul at 1:20 PM on November 4, 2007

P.S. It is poor form of me to assume a male researcher. Sorry. Wish I could go back and fix that.
posted by PercussivePaul at 1:21 PM on November 4, 2007

1) There are no real guidelines, but very many of your library's databases will allow you to search for only scholarly/peer-reviewed journals. It will typically be a limiter -- a check box on the browser page, probably beneath the search field.

2) No, I'm virtually certain the Economist is not peer-reviewed.

3) Just do a search for "internet AND africa" in a database like Academic Search Premier or ProQuest Research Library with that scholarly/peer-reviewed limiter clicked and go from there.

On preview, yeah, what pretty much everyone else said.
posted by cog_nate at 1:23 PM on November 4, 2007

1) No. Or at least, not that you could be expected to recognize. Encyclopedias aren't normally acceptable for citation, since they obscure the citation history -- you don't know what is the article's author's, and what comes from other sources.

2) Hell no.

3) Do you mean factual information? You need to talk to your teacher/prof, because the good information won't be peer-reviewed. Instead, it will be in primary statistical sources and government documents. UNESCO probably has information on this, for example.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:50 PM on November 4, 2007

One source you can use to figure out if a journal is peer reviewed is Ulrichs. The reference desk at your library probably has the book version, and if your library subscribes to the website you can look up journal information online.
posted by gnat at 2:15 PM on November 4, 2007

If something is peer reviewed there will be a description of the methodology used to survey the literature, and mention of the review process. Basically, peer review involves examination by a panel of experts in a field, rather than just a board of editors.

I review bibliographies for people all the time. I can't stress how much time you will save using a database that will weedout non-peer-reviewed sources. Search engines like Google Scholar are useful, but as you progress, you will need to explain how you found information.

Dictionaries and encyclopedias collect facts. You need to go much deeper than this to write an essay. They are not bad sources, but they are only a starting point.

Especially in the health sciences it's important to be systematic rather than just pulling a few things together.

Talking to a librarian is great first step to compiling a bibliography, and most of use really enjoy helping students.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 2:19 PM on November 4, 2007

There has been already a lot of great advice. I will echo the one about using library databases, some of them will be only academic/peer reviewed (like JStor). Often the page that you connect to the database will indicate if it is all or some peer reviewed journals (my library does this). Also in many of the citations for the individual articles will indicate journal type.

I teach a lot of library skills/information literacy classes and it can be tricky sometimes when you have to try and decide if it is peer reviewed. Reallying on the information in the databases is very important. But all else fails, talk a librarian at your school.

And the Economist is NOT peer reviewed. It is just a well written news magazine.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 3:07 PM on November 4, 2007

Thanks everyone, I now feel much more confident in my ability to look for peer-reviewed sources.

Also, I'm sorry if I give the impression that I'm trying to get other people to do my research-- I wanted to avoid that but, you know, at the same time I couldn't help asking just in case an African telecom expert happened to be passing through, ya know...
posted by emmatwofour at 3:25 PM on November 4, 2007

AU Adomi, EE
TI Internet development and connectivity in Nigeria
SN 0033-0337
PY 2005
VL 39
IS 3
BP 257
EP 268
UT ISI:000231290800006

AU Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, B
Lal, K
TI Internet diffusion in sub-Saharan Africa: A cross-country analysis
SN 0308-5961
PY 2005
VL 29
IS 7
BP 507
EP 527
UT ISI:000230981400004
posted by Rumple at 4:11 PM on November 4, 2007

Sometimes you can go to the website for the journal and look for the info regarding submissions. They should describe their review process, if any.
posted by unknowncommand at 4:50 PM on November 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

It's not current, Africa-focused, or peer-reviewed, but for my money some of the best articles on Internet use on developing countries are by Richard Heeks. You can read some here:
Development Informatics: Working Papers

These are working papers and so absolutely not peer reviewed but the guy knows what he's talking about. I imagine some of his writings have made it to peer review as well, but read through these to see if what he has to say is useful for you.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:30 AM on November 5, 2007

Not peer reviewed (but probably reliable data given the source) is this summary from the OECD linked from here.
posted by Rumple at 9:20 AM on November 5, 2007

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