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Research Methods: Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

Basic Approach to a Research Project

What is a Peer-Reviewed (Academic) Journal?

What Is a Peer-Reviewed Journal?

Peer Review is a process that journals use to ensure the articles they publish represent the best scholarship currently available. When an article is submitted to a peer reviewed journal, the editors send it out to other scholars in the same field (the author's peers) to get their opinion on the quality of the scholarship, its relevance to the field, its appropriateness for the journal, etc.

Publications that don't use peer review (Time, Cosmo, Salon) just rely on the judgement of the editors whether an article is up to snuff or not. That's why you can't count on them for solid, scientific scholarship. --University of Texas at Austin

Databases Containing Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

Each database containing peer-reviewed journals has different content coverage and materials.  The databases listed in this Research Guide are available only to Truckee Meadows Community College students, faculty and staff. You will need your TMCC credentials (Username and Password) to access them off-campus.

When searching a database, a search term frequently will retrieve many articles.  Browse the article abstracts to find one or more relevant to your search.

Some of the databases provide citations for the articles.

See a librarian for assistance.

JSTOR: A Special Source of Academic Journals

JSTOR is unique because it is an enormous source of back issues of academic journals, some peer reviewed.  It consists of hundreds of these journals for most of their existence, including every article in PDF format.  See the Reference Librarian for assistance in using JSTOR.


How to Read a Peer-Reviewed Journal Article

Tips for Reading a Research Article

Read the Abstract. It consists of a brief summary of the research questions and methods. It may also state the findings. Because it is short and often written in dense psychological language, you may need to read it a couple of times. Try to restate the abstract in your own nontechnical language.

  1. Read the Introduction. This is the beginning of the article, appearing first after the Abstract. This contains information about the authors' interest in the research, why they chose the topic, their hypothesis, and methods. This part also sets out the operational definitions of variables.
  2. Read the Discussion section. Skip over the Methods section for the time being. The Discussion section will explain the main findings in great detail and discuss any methodological problems or flaws that the researchers discovered.
  3. Read the Methods section. Now that you know the results and what the researchers claim the results mean, you are prepared to read about the Methods. This section explains the type of research and the techniques and assessment instruments used. If the research utilized self-reports and questionnaires, the questions and statements used may be set out either in this section or in an appendix that appears at the end of the report.
  4. Read the Results section. This is the most technically challenging part of a research report. But you already know the findings (from reading about them in the Discussion section). This section explains the statistical analyses that led the authors to their conclusions.
  5. Read the Conclusion. The last section of the report (before any appendices) summarizes the findings, but, more important for social research, it sets out what the researchers think is the value of their research for real-life application and for public policy. This section often contains suggestions for future research, including issues that the researchers became aware of in the course of the study.
  6. Following the conclusions are appendices, usually tables of findings, presentations of questions and statements used in self-reports and questionnaires, and examples of forms used (such as forms for behavioral assessments).

Modified from Net Lab