Q. What is peer review?
A. For an article to be published in an academic journal, it must be examined by experts in the field. They determine whether the information is reliable, well researched, and of interest to others who study that subject.
Q. How can I tell if an article is peer-reviewed?
A. There are several ways to determine if an article is refereed (peer-reviewed). The best way is to read the publisher's policies at the journal website (look for Peer Review or Editorial Policy, Submission or Author Guidelines). Beware that peer-reviewed journals also include content that is not peer reviewed, such as letters and book reviews. A peer-reviewed article will usually show a string of dates, usually either near the abstract or at the bottom of the 1st page of the PDF version or at the end of the article, showing when the article was submitted, revised, and accepted.
Library databases may offer the ability to filter search results to display only peer-reviewed publications. Search engines, like Google Scholar, includes both peer-reviewed and "grey" literature that is not commercially published and may not be peer reviewed.
In the traditional publication model, researchers (who are often publically funded) submit their articles to commercial publishers. This journal is then sold to libraries (which are also publically funded) where the research is accessible to the public. What if there was a way for publically funded research to be publically available for free? There is! Open Access!
Open Access (OA) is free, immediate, permanent online access to the full text of research articles for anyone, worldwide. It removes commercial interest from the distribution of research results and makes important information accessible to everyone. Science disciplines have been at the forefront of advocating Open Access to further research. To learn more about OA, visit the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), and the Public Library of Science (PLoS).