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BIOL 312 Wildlife Ecology and Management Class Guide

What is Peer Review?

Peer-reviewed journals (also called scholarly or refereed journals) are a key information source for your college papers and projects. They are written by scholars for scholars and are an reliable source for information on a topic or discipline. These journals can be found either in the library's online databases, or in the library's local holdings. This guide will help you identify whether a journal is peer-reviewed and show you tips on finding them. 


Peer-review is a process where an article is verified by a group of scholars before it is published.

When an author submits an article to a peer-reviewed journal, the editor passes out the article to a group of scholars in the related field (the author's peers). They review the article, making sure that its sources are reliable, the information it presents is consistent with the research, etc. Only after they give the article their "okay" is it published.

The peer-review process makes sure that only quality research is published; research that will further the scholarly work in the field.

Distinguishing Primary and Secondary Science Sources

In the sciences, primary and secondary sources refer to how close an article is to the research that is being described. For your assignment, you will identify at least eight primary scientific sources for your literature review.

A primary scientific source:

  • is authored by the person or group who completed an experiment
  • presents original data, often presented in tables and graphs
  • typically includes:
    • an introduction with tested hypothesis,
    • a review of literature within the field similar to the current experiment,
    • methods/materials/equipment of the current experiment,
    • results of the experiment,
    • discussion of the results, 
    • a conclusion and suggestions for further study,
    • and a references list.
  • is almost exclusively published in peer-reviewed journals

A secondary scientific source:

  • is authored by individuals who have summarized, interpreted, and analyzed the findings of scientists/groups of scientists all studying the same thing
  • is often referred to as "review" articles (literature review, systematic review, and meta-analysis review)
    • may also take the form of magazine articles and books
  • cites other authors but does not present original research data

Both primary and secondary scientific articles can be found in peer-reviewed journals, so even if you identify a peer-reviewed article, you will still need to ensure that it is primary research before using it for this assignment.