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All About Scientific Literature

Learn everything you need to know about scientific literature, including how to find, understand, use, and ultimately create your own.

Peer Review in a Nutshell

Infographic of the peer review cycle, which is described in detail below.


Peer review is an essential component of the scholarly publishing process. When done correctly, it is a vital part of building trust and maintaining high standards of quality for published research. Here are the main steps in the process:

  1. The author submits their work to a journal.
  2. The journal's editor reads it and decides whether to bring it under review. At this stage she's looking for first indications not just of the quality of the article and the science underpinning it, but also of the relevance of the research to the field and to the journal itself.
  3. If the editor wants to go ahead with the article, she'll send it to 3 to 5 of the author's "peers," who work in the same field. They are asked to "review" the article.
    1. The review is usually "double blind" which means the author doesn't know who the reviewers are, and the reviewers don't know who the author is.
  4. Each reviewer assess the article for a number of factors, including the overall quality of the author's study or experiment, the soundness of the results, whether the author's conclusions or discoveries are meaningful to the field, and how the writing can be improved. 
  5. Reviewers provide feedback to the journal editor, including a recommendation (accept, accept with revisions, or reject), and suggestions for revisions to the article. The editor aggregates all of this information and shares it with the author.
  6. There may be multiple rounds of revisions, as the author makes updates and the editor accepts or rejects them. This is often the lengthiest part of the publication process.
  7. Eventually, if all goes well, the editor will eventually decide the article is ready to be accepted. When it is published, it will be considered by everyone to be a peer reviewed article.

What Gets to Be Peer Reviewed?

Most types of sources are not peer reviewed in the formal sense. Almost all sources go through some kind of review process to ensure the quality of the literature and the science it's describing, but the gold-standard peer review process only happens in journals.
Source type Peer reviewed?
Research article in a peer-reviewed journal
Chapter in a scholarly book ⛔️
Dissertations ⛔️

Conference proceedings




Books of any kind


Book reviews published in peer-reviewed journals


Editorials, letters to the editor, and other short pieces featured in peer-reviewed journals


Learn More About Peer Review

Types of Peer Review (from PLoS)

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