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Evaluating Sources: The Peer-Review Process of Journals

Guide to understanding "scholarly sources" and evaluating academic quality.

A Peer Review Flowchart

The Peer Review Process of an Article Submitted to an Academic Journal

1 - An Author researches and writes an article

2 - The author finds an appropriate journal to publish their article

3 - The author submits the article to the journal (typically an acquisitions editor or general editor)

4 - The editor evaluates if the article fits the scope of the journal - if yes, then proceeds to next step, if not, returns to author.

5 - The editor makes copies of the article that have been stripped of identifiable material (no author name, institution, etc.)

6 - Those copies are sent to, typically, two or three experts in the field of the article. They are called "peers".

7 - The experts / "peers" evaluate the article for academic quality, originality, and contribution to the field. If it is none of these, then it is returned to the editor to be trashed. If it is a good start, but needs improvement, it is returned to the editor with comments for improvement. If it is already good enough for publication, it is returned to the editor with recommendation for publication.

8 - The editor typically follows the recommendations of the experts / "peers" - trash, return for improvement, or advance to publication.

Rarely does an article get published on first submission. It typically gets returned more than once with suggestions for improvement. Those improvements might be small (like some grammar issues), content (left out an important article or two), or structural (some journals want articles to follow a specific flow).

By going through this process, the quality of the article should be improved.


Peer Review / Refereed / Adjudicated - Three terms that all mean about the same thing; an article has gone thru a process in which it was viewed / judged by others and was determined to be worthy of publication.

Peer - In this context, the peer is an acknowledged expert on a topic or academic field. Usually an unpaid position filled by academics desiring to help the discipline (it is also a good line on their C.V.).

Blind or Double Blind Peer Review - A blind peer review process is one in which the reviewers, the peers, are not aware of who the author is. A double blind peer review is one in which neither the author nor the peers know who the other is.