Instructions for Searching Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

What is a scholarly or peer reviewed journal?

Scholarly and professional journals feature articles written by researchers and practitioners in a particular subject area. The authors often have particular specialties. Peer groups of researchers, scholars and professionals within a specific discipline are the audience for scholarly literature.

Peer review is a well-accepted indicator of quality scholarship. It is the process by which an author's peers read a paper submitted for publication. A number of recognized researchers in the field will evaluate a manuscript and recommend its publication, revision, or rejection. Articles accepted for publication through a peer review process implicitly meet the discipline's expected standards of expertise.

Articles in some scholarly and professional journals are not peer-reviewed, but are selected by an editor or board. Standards of scholarship in such journals are often equal or comparable to those of peer-reviewed publications, although this is not always the case.

Peer-reviewed journals can be identified by their editorial statements or instructions to authors and in sources such as Ulrich's International Periodicals Directory. In Ulrich's, the graphic: icon that means a journal is refereed icon indicates a "refereed" (peer-reviewed) journal.

Where to find a journal article?

You can either browse the table of contents of a journal or use a "search engine" to find specific articles from hundreds of journals. There are many online databases for searching references. Web of Science is one that you can use on PSU campus. Go to PSU library website ( and select the "Database & Full-Text Resources" link under the "Find it" column. After the databases page opens, click "Social Sciences" and find the "Web of Science" entry down at the bottom. In the Web of Science site, use the general option to find the topics you are interested in. Try to explore different search methods on the Web of Science page. Once you find some relevant articles browse the content of each entry and check what references it cited and how times it has been cited. You might find more interesting papers from these cross-references or citation searches.

To get a copy of the articles you can click on the PSU Links icon associated with each journal article. A separate browser window will let you check if PSU library has a copy of the journal. If the library has a subscription to the online journal, then you can download a pdf file of the article. Otherwise, you will need to go to the library to photocopy the article or use Inter-Library Loan (ILL) to get a copy of the article.

How to summarize a journal article?

After you have the article, you can generate useful information by summarizing it. You must thoroughly read the readings and write a 1-2 page summary. The summary should include a synopsis of the objectives, methods, and major conclusions of the article, and a critique part that identifies the strengths and weaknesses of the article. You can also comment on how the article relates to your particular research topics and compare and contrast the article with other similar work. If you make it a habit to summarize articles this way, you will gradually create your own web-of-science.

A method for analyzing and evaluating a reading assignment.

In analyzing an article or book consider: