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Chemistry & Biochemistry

The basic tools you will need to research topics in chemistry and biochemistry, along with resources to help you write effectively within the discipline.

How to Identify Peer Reviewed Journals

How to Identify Peer Reviewed Journals

Peer review is defined as “a process of subjecting an author’s scholarly work, research or ideas to the scrutiny of others who are experts in the same field” (). Peer review is intended to serve two purposes:

  1. It acts as a filter to ensure that only high quality research is published, especially in reputable journals, by determining the validity, significance and originality of the study.
  2. Peer review is intended to improve the quality of manuscripts that are deemed suitable for publication. Peer reviewers provide suggestions to authors on how to improve the quality of their manuscripts, and also identify any errors that need correcting before publication.

How do you determine whether an article qualifies as being a peer-reviewed journal article?

  • If you're searching for articles in certain databases, you can limit your search to peer-reviewed sources simply by selecting a tab or checking a box on the search screen.
  • If you have an article, an indication that it has been through the peer review process will be the publication history, usually at the beginning or end of the article.
  • If you're looking at the journal itself, go to the editorial statement or instructions to authors (usually in the first few pages of the journal or at the end) for references to the peer-review process.
  • Lookup the journal by title or ISSN in the ProQuest Source Evaluation Aid
  • Careful! Not all information in a peer-reviewed journal is actually reviewed. Editorials, letters to the editor, book reviews, and other types of information don't count as articles, and may not be accepted by your professor.

What about preprint sites and ResearchGate?

  • A preprint is a piece of research that has not yet been peer reviewed and published in a journal. In most cases, they can be considered final drafts or working papers. Preprint sites are great sources of current research - and most preprint sites will provide a link to a later, peer-reviewed version of an article. 
  • ResearchGate is a commercial social networking site for scientists and researchers to share papers, ask and answer questions, and find collaborators. Members can upload research output including papers, chapters, negative results, patents, research proposals, methods, presentations, etc. Researchers can access these materials, and also contact members to ask for access to material that has not been shared, usually because of copyright restrictions. There is a filter to limit results to articles, but it can be difficult to determine the publication history of ResearchGate items and whether they have been published in peer reviewed sources.

How to Identify Primary Research Articles

How to Identify Primary Research Articles

A primary research article reports on an empirical research study conducted by the authors. The goal of a primary research article is to present the result of original research that makes a new contribution to the body of knowledge. 

Characteristics:

  • Almost always published in a peer-reviewed journal
  • Asks a research question or states a hypothesis or hypotheses
  • Identifies a research population
  • Describes a specific research method
  • Tests or measures something
  • Often (but not always) structured in a standard format called IMRAD: Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion
  • Words to look for as clues include: analysis, study, investigation, examination, experiment, numbers of people or objects analyzed, content analysis, or surveys.

To contrast, the following are not primary research articles (i.e., they are secondary sources):

  • Literature reviews/Review articles
  • Meta-Analyses (studies that arrive at conclusions based on research from many other studies)
  • Editorials & Letters
  • Dissertations

Articles that are NOT primary research articles may discuss the same research, but they are not reporting on original research, they are summarizing and commenting on research conducted and published by someone else. For example, a literature review provides commentary and analysis of research done by other people, but it does not report the results of the author's own study and is not primary research.