Section 1: What is a peer-reviewed article or a refereed journal?
What is a journal?
Scholarly journals exist to disseminate information within an academic or professional field. Journal articles are written by experts in a particular field and aimed at an audience of other experts within that field. Since you are here to become one of those experts -- whether you want to or not -- you will need to differentiate scholarly journals from more popular (mainstream, typical Internet) media.
Medical doctors share their research findings with other medical professionals in the Journal of the American Medical Association
Psychologists who specialize in child development, write for psychologists and other behavioral scientists in the pages of Child Development.
Philosophers share their ideas and research with other philosophers in the Journal of Ethics
How can I identify a journal?
It is common for journal articles to include authors credentials right alongside their names, because credentials are very important in scholarly publications. Journal articles are often substantially longer than articles in magazines and newspapers, are very specific in subject matter, and contain discipline-specific vocabulary (or jargon) and concepts. Notice that the articles in the next section of this module almost always have the authors' credentials and affiliations next to or under their names.
Journals are sometimes intense!
The specific nature of journal articles, combined with the use of specialized vocabulary, means they are not always easy to read for the non-expert. It is recommended that students have some basic knowledge about their topic before delving into scholarly information. This basic knowledge is what undergrad psych classes are all about!
Where does peer review fit Into all of this?
Peer review is a process that scholarly journal publishers use to ensure the articles they publish meet research standards and are relatively free of bias. Peer-reviewed journals are sometimes called "refereed" journals and other times called "scholarly" journals. They all mean the same thing. When an article is submitted to a peer reviewed/refereed journal, the editors send it out to other scholars in the same field to get their opinion on the quality of the scholarship and its relevance and importance to the field. This means that when an article is finally published in a peer-reviewed publication, there is a consensus among experts that the information communicated in that article is of the highest quality.
The best place to begin your search for scholarly research is at the LAVC or another college library. Even many public libraries have access to large databases such as ProQuest and EBSCO, which give you access to thousands of peer-reviewed journal articles. (ProQuest and EBSCO are never used in a journal reference. They host databases but are not owners of information, like journals are. Using EBSCO in a reference would be like saying Regina King was in a TV show on Netflix rather than in American Crime.)
After you log in to a database, enter your topic in the search box. Before you click 'search,' click on the 'peer-reviewed' option, to be sure you get the right results. You may also want to restrict the date range, since most written work depends on newer research. Most of the articles are available as PDFs, so you can download your own copy.