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Evaluating Information and Fake News: Peer Review

You've found some information for an assignment...but how do you tell if the information is any good?

review, accept, reject

Banner image source: Pixabay and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 licensed under a CC0 Public Domain licence.

What is Peer Review

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines peer review as:

a process by which something proposed (as for research or publication) is evaluated by a group of experts (peers) in the appropriate field

The peer review process helps ensure published academic information is of a high standard and maintains the credibility of the research. 


Why is it important

Everyone wants accurate information they can trust. Expert peer reviewers aim to ensure articles and books published within academic publications are high quality by checking they are:

  • Accurate – the results of all research are accurately presented with no significant data omitted, altered or fabricated
  • Original – the work has not been plagiarised and, where the ideas of others are used they are accurately and consistently cited and referenced. 
  • Novel – adding new ideas to the body of knowledge of the discipline and not repeating information previously published 
  • Rigorous – they are set out in a logical manner, completely explain their research methodology, provide evidence for all their conclusions and, draw logical conclusions based on the research.

Finding peer reviewed items in OneSearch

A significant focus within the Library collection is on scholarly, peer reviewed publications. The library also collects a wide range of other resource types, such as newspapers and trade journals that are not peer reviewed. 

OneSearch and many other databases allow you to filter out non peer reviewed items from results lists.

Within OneSearch use the "Availability" filter to select "Peer-reviewed Articles".  See the OneSearch guide for help with refining your search. 

OneSearch Peer Reviewed Articles filter selected

In some cases, based on your evaluation, you may wish to check the peer review processes of a particular publication.

How do I check if it is peer reviewed

Peer review can be used in scholarly journals reporting on research findings and methodologies and also be applied to books, reports, and conference proceedings related to any topic of research. 

To check the peer review process for different types of resources you can: 

  • For scholarly journals - check the peer review policy within the manuscript submission detials for a journal title.
  • For monographs - check the publication foreword for details of peer review or editorial processes. 
  • For reports and conference proceedings - check the website for the publisher of the report or conference. 

Understanding the peer review process

The main aim of a peer review process is to ensure the quality of the scholarly theoretical and/or applied research knowledge to be published has been evaluated by expert peers in the field.  

Though there may be slight differences in approach, each publisher will follow common peer review processes. 

  • After the author submits their work it is checked for obvious errors by the publisher's editor who will send it to a panel of peer reviewers. These are experts in their discipline.
  • The reviewers comment on the suitability of the work for publication and may make suggested corrections to the manuscript. The work is then returned to the author by the editor.
  • The author may elect to withdraw the work, submit it to another publisher or, make the recommended alterations and resubmit it. The editor will then return it to the panel of reviewers. This process can go on for months or even years.
  • Finally, when the reviewers and the author agree on the final version, (confusingly called a post print manuscript at this stage) the work will be sent for publication by the editor.

This diagram by Wei Li at Harvard University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Classic peer review uses a double-blind peer-review process, which means that neither the authors nor the reviewers will know the identify of the others. Some issues with classic peer review have been identified and as a result, some alternative approaches are sometimes used.  


Problems with
Classic Peer Review
  Alternatives to
Classic Peer review



Where do peer-reviewed articles fit into the information timeline?

Take a look at this excellent resource created by the University of Adelaide which demonstrates how we get from "something happened" to scholarly, peer-reviewed research.


 Except for logos, Canva designs or where otherwise indicated, content in this guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.