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What Does Peer Review Mean?

Peer review is a process of assessing the quality of an article submitted to an academic journal. When authors submit an article to a journal it typically undergoes the following process:
© London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine 2020

There are a number of different study designs that can be used in disability research. Once research projects or studies have been completed, the results are often published in peer-reviewed journals. This is one amongst many ways evidence can be disseminated. It is important to recognise that it is not the only way to communicate your research findings, especially if you want to reach a wide range of audiences.

What is Peer Review?

Peer review is a process of assessing the quality of an article submitted to an academic journal. When authors submit an article to a journal it typically undergoes the following process:

  • Journal editor checks whether the article is suitable for publication in the journal (i.e. does it meet the scope of the journal?)
  • Editor sends the article to 2-3 experts in the field who evaluate the quality of the submitted article (peer reviewers)
  • Peer reviewers check the quality of the paper
  • Revisions are suggested to the authors, or the article may be rejected if the article is poor quality (e.g. inappropriate methods are used to address the research question)

Features of a Peer Reviewed Article

When you are considering whether an article you identify is peer reviewed, these are some of the key features you can look for:

Image showing a publication, with different components highlighted

How do I Find Peer Reviewed Articles?

The best way to find peer-reviewed articles is to search the online library databases, many of which include peer-reviewed journals. These include databases for literature focussed on medical or health related research (PubMed, PsychINFO, EMBASE) and those focused on other topics (e.g. EconLit includes economic literature) or regions (e.g. LILACS focusses on literature from Latin America and Africa-Wide Information on Africa).

Each database has different “rules” for searching. Most focus on combining search “concepts” in different ways. For example, if you are interested in finding out about social protection for people with disabilities in Nepal, you have three key “concepts”:

1) Social protection

2) People with disabilities

3) Nepal

In most databases, to conduct a search with three concepts, you would combine search terms for each concept with the word “AND”. This is an example of a “Boolean Operator”. There may be many different search terms that can be used for each of these concepts. For example, “people with disabilities”, we could use the terms “disabled”, “hearing impaired”, “Deaf”, or “intellectual disability” amongst a whole range of other terms. Search terms within a concept are combined with the word “OR”.

Developing a search strategy can be a complex and time-consuming process, but it is important and will help you to identify relevant literature on a topic of interest. You will hear more about this later this week when we discuss “What is an evidence synthesis”.

Task

1. Go to PubMed: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/

2. Search: Disability AND key topic of interest AND location (e.g. disability AND violence; disability AND health AND Bangladesh)

3. Read the abstract of one of the resulting articles

4. Share what you learnt with your peers. What was the article about? What was the key finding?

© London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine 2020
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Global Disability: Research and Evidence

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