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Identifying Peer-Reviewed Articles - Twin Cities Library, Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

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Identifying Peer-Reviewed Articles

Your instructors may require you to use peer-reviewed articles for your academic research papers. Learn what "peer-reviewed" means and how to identify the differences between peer-reviewed journal, trade journal, and popular magazine articles.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles  |  Trade Journal Articles  |  Magazine Articles

Peer-Reviewed Journal

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

Peer-reviewed journals are published with the intent of sharing new research and information from specialized fields with researchers, professionals, and students. The process of peer review helps to ensure that each published article is unique, accurate, credible, and objective.

Characteristics of a Peer-Reviewed Journal

  • Longer, in-depth articles.
  • Information is organized into sections with headings: Abstract, introduction, literature review, methods, results, conclusions, references.
  • Includes graphs or tables but few, if any, images or advertisements.
  • Includes specialized or field-specific language and jargon.
  • Information is presented objectively, without bias.
  • Includes reference lists and in-text citations.
  • Published quarterly or semi-annually.


  • Inform other scholars and students in higher education of new research and findings.


  • Experts in their fields: researchers conducting primary research, practitioners, professors and scholars. Credentials are either provided or easy to access.
  • Often an organization will publish the journal (e.g., the American Medical Association publishes JAMA and the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Finding Peer-Reviewed Articles

  1. Perform a search in SuperSearch.
  2. Look at the lefthand column on on your results page (under Refine Results).
  3. Mark the box labeled Peer-Reviewed Articles.
  4. Wait for the page to refresh.
  5. Voila! All search results come from peer-reviewed journals.

Note: When you restrict a SuperSearch search to bring back only peer-reviewed articles, those results will still contain editorial and opinion pieces, book reviews, news blurbs, and other types of short, non-scholarly articles. These types of articles appear in peer-reviewed publications but are not acceptable for academic research. Yikes! Always evaluate your sources before including them in your research.

Trade Journal

Trade Journal Articles

Trade journals focus on providing relevant, up-to-date information to members of certain professions. Business, education, health, and industry magazines often fit into the category of trade journals. Trade journals can be quite useful for research but article contents should be carefully evaluated for authority and accuracy. Before writing a paper, check with your instructor if you are allowed to use trade journals in academic research.

Characteristics of a Trade Journal

  • Colorful, glossy covers often featuring an "industrial" or trade-specific setting.
  • Includes field-specific terminology.
  • Includes industry-related advertising.
  • Varied article length (e.g., short news blurbs, longer "feature" articles).
  • May or may not cite information sources or include reference lists.


  • Inform professionals of current trends and news in fields related specifically to their business or industry area.
  • Sell field-specific products.


  • Often, but not always, specialists or practitioners in the fields about which they write.

Popular Magazine

Magazine Articles

Magazines appeal to a much wider audience than do peer-reviewed or trade journals. They often contain short articles about current events, pop culture, or anything of general interest. They are not acceptable for academic research purposes.

Characteristics of a Popular Magazine

  • Colorful, glossy images on covers and with articles.
  • Includes substantial advertisements.
  • Does not cite information sources.
  • Includes easy-to-understand, non-technical writing.
  • Published weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly frequency.


  • Entertainment.
  • Inform the public of current trends and news in various popular subject areas.
  • Sell products or persuade the reader.
  • Make money.


  • Articles are written by staff writers, bloggers, and reporters who may not have educational background in or experience with the topics about which they write.
  • Articles may be unsigned or missing authorship.