An academic journal is a type of periodical that scholars use to share new research. Each issue of an academic journal contains new content, and may include editorials, opinion pieces, reviews of books or software, articles that review existing literature on a special topic, and articles that describe an original research project undertaken by the author.
Peer Review in academic journals is a process that helps ensure that quality of that research. Peer reviewed articles may also be described as refereed articles or scholarly articles.
The flowchart below illustrates the lifecycle of a peer reviewed article.
Source: “Peer Review in 3 Minutes” by North Carolina State University Libraries, licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 US License.
Peer-review: The process through which some scholarly articles go through prior to publication in a journal. Authors submit articles to a journal and the article is reviewed by experts in the field. Suggestions about the article are sent to the author for revision. This process continues until the experts deem the article acceptable for publication.
Not sure if your article is peer reviewed? Look for these clues:
Author. The author's credentials & institution should be listed. Authors of peer reviewed articles typically have graduate degrees and often work at a university.
Abstract. Many peer reviewed articles begin with an abstract, which is a paragraph summarizing the research.
Audience. Peer reviewed articles are written for scholars, researchers, & students who are knowledgeable about the topic, and likely use specialized terminology.
Purpose. What is the purpose of the article? Does the author want to support findings of a research project, present a case study, make an argument that is supported by evidence or research, etc.?
References. Peer reviewed articles typically include a bibliography that cites many other peer reviewed sources.
Publication venue. Peer reviewed articles are published in academic journals. Each journal usually only publishes content that is related to a specific academic discipline or sub-discipline.