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CH 1010: Chemical Properties, Bonding, and Forces: Evaluating Sources

Peer-Reviewed Journals

What are "peer-reviewed" journals?

A peer-reviewed journal is a respected academic publication. Before articles are published within these types of journals, they are sent by the editors of the journal to other scholars in the field ("peers"), often anonymously, to get feedback on the quality of the scholarship, research methods, as well as relevance or importance to the field. The article may be accepted, often with revisions suggested, or rejected for publication.  

Peer-reviewed journals are highly respected, and researchers wish to have their works published in them. Many often have low acceptance rates. 

One way to find peer reviewed articles is to type your keywords into WPI Library Search, and then choose the filter for Peer-Reviewed Journals. You can also search our Chemistry Databases for peer-reviewed articles. 


Primary vs. Secondary vs. Tertiary Literature

Academic journals publish primary and secondary articles.

An original article, also called an primary article, presents original research done by the author(s). These articles usually contain a methods section detailing the experimental processes, a results section, and a discussion section. 

A review article, also called a secondary article, presents an overview of the current state of the research on a particular topic. A review article summarizes and examines original research articles on a topic and draws conclusions from that body of work. If you find a review article, look at the references to find original articles on that topic. 

textbook is a common example of tertiary literature, which contains knowledge that is firmly well-established.  It also can have citations of primary literature, which are usually listed at the end of a chapter.  You can look up references that are cited to study a fact in further depth.  Tertiary literature can also help generate ideas for research topics to study in depth later on.

Evaluating Information

When you find a new source of information (such as an online article, a news story, a scholarly journal article, or a book), ask yourself the following questions about the source: 


Who is the author, editor, or publisher? What are their qualifications?


What type of document is it? For example, is it a newspaper article? A blog? A government website? A scholarly article? A book?

What is it about?

There is no 'bad' type of document, but some have gone through a more rigorous review process than others. Is the document appropriate for the type of research you are doing?

Is the document relevant for your research?


When was this source published? Is the information up-to-date? 


Where did you find the source? A library database? A website?

For websites, who is responsible for the content? 


What was the goal of the author or publisher? Are there any conflicts of interest? 


How did the author gather data and information? Did the author include citations? Did the author conduct research himself/herself? Did the author derive reasonable conclusions from the research?

The answers to these questions will help you to answer the big picture questions about the source:

  • Credibility: Is the source reliable? Is it appropriate for the type of research you are doing? 
  • Relevance: Is the topic related to your research? Does the source suit your research needs? A reference may not be relevant for your research, but it can still be relevant for someone else’s research.  It depends on the topic.