1. Find out more about the journal.

One of the best places to find out if a journal is peer-reviewed is to go to the journal's website.  Most publishers have a website for a journal that tells you about the journal, how authors can submit an article, and what the process is for getting published.

If you find the journal website, look for a link that says information for authors, instructions for authors, submitting an article or something similar.

2. If the journal uses peer-review for quality control, then you need to figure out if the article you are looking at went through that process.  This will probably be a judgment call.  Here are a few things to look for:

  • Is it a research article?  If the article describes original research that was conducted by the author(s), it was probably peer-reviewed.  Realize that "research" doesn't just mean lab experiments, it could also mean field research, surveys, statistical analysis, interviews, literary analysis, exegesis and a variety of other methods.
  • Was it reviewed and revised?  Look at the first page. Some journals will include information about when the article was first submitted, when it was revised and when it was finally accepted.  If you see that, then you know it was peer-reviewed. 
  • Is it a book review?  If you are looking at a (relatively) short article that is evaluating the quality of a published book, that's a book review.  Usually, this type of article isn't what your professor means when they say "use peer reviewed articles."

3. What if that doesn't work?  That's a great time to ask for help.  Your professor may know about the journal, or ask a librarian.