What is the difference between scholarly and peer-reviewed (refereed) publications?

Scholarly Publications
A publication is regarded as scholarly if it is authored by experts, for experts. The publication is academic in focus as it reports original research (experimentation), research methodology or theory. Generally, scholarly journals are targeted for professional or academic researchers and provide detailed analysis concentrating on a single discipline or academic field. The publication will likely be peer-reviewed or refereed by external reviewers. The publisher is typically a professional association or an academic press.

Peer-reviewed (Refereed) Publications
Prior to publication, articles are submitted and go through a rigorous assessment that involves review and approval by the author’s peers (experts in the same subject area). Peer-reviewed serials publish articles only if they have passed through the official editorial process. The peer-review and evaluation system is utilized to safeguard, maintain, and improve the quality of scholarly materials published in serials.

While not all scholarly journals go through the peer-review process, it is usually safe to assume that a peer-reviewed journal is also scholarly. Remember, just because a journal is peer-reviewed does not guarantee that all articles in it are included in the peer-review process. Some article types, such as news items, editorials and book and article reviews, may not be peer-reviewed.

The best way to determine if a particular journal is peer-reviewed:

  1. Refer to the chart below outlining the differences between types of journals.
  2. Examine the periodical in print or the online version. In the print version, look for submission instructions and determine if the submission process includes reviewers or referees. This information can usually be found on the inside front or back cover. In the online version check on the publisher’s website.
  Scholarly and Peer-reviewed Trade Publications
Appearance Plain cover and paper
Technical jargon
Black and white photos
Limited advertisements
Glossy, color photos
Trade related advertisements
Purpose Share results of research
Advance knowledge in a specialty
Provides practical news and information to members of an industry or profession
Author Researchers or scholars in their field
Credentials listed
Professionals and staff writers with expertise
Content Narrow in scope, lengthy, structured sections, graphs and tables Moderate in length, reports on industry trends, techniques, topics of interest, career information, and convention information
Audience Scholars, professionals, researchers, students Members of a specific business or organization
Accountability Controlled by a peer-review process Controlled by journalistic or professional ethics
Bibliography Bibliographies or endnotes in formal styles Occasionally cite sources
Examples Journal of the American Medical Association
Journal of Hand Therapy
New England Journal of Medicine
Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research
Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners
PT Magazine
NEWS-Line for Physical Therapists & PT Assistants
OT Practice Magazine
Rehab Management
















Click here to view this guide as a PDF

Criteria for Evaluating the Accuracy/Validity of a Website

The advent and proliferation of the World Wide Web has provided scholars with incredible opportunities to share and gather information quickly across large geographical distances. It has also opened the doors for anyone with a computer and an Internet connection to publish information for the world to see – information that is often incorrect or unreliable. How can we tell the difference?

Here are some things to consider:

  • Who wrote/sponsored/published the site? Read the “About Us” or other similar section, check the publisher (next to the copyright date at the bottom of the page), and take note of any bylines on individual pages. Make sure the people and organizations affiliated with the site are reliable, knowledgeable, and not hiding a bias or ulterior motive. If you’re unsure, use a search engine (Google, Bing, etc.) to look up the person or organization.
  • When was the site last updated/copyrighted? Accurate information is up-to-date information. Check the bottom of each page for a copyright date or “Last Updated” note. Currency is particularly important in medicine and health sciences.
  • What links are connected to the site? Look at the links the site provides to other sites. Are those sites reputable and reliable? Also, look at what other sites link to the site you’re evaluating. To do this, use a search engine like Google or Yahoo and type in “Link:[name of your website]” (i.e. “Link:http://www.usa.edu”). The results will contain websites that link to your site. Are those sites reputable/reliable?
  • Who is the website trying to reach? Determine the audience of the web site by reading its “About Us” section, mission statement or purpose statement, layout (graphics, animation, banner advertising, etc.), and tone. Is the information presented in an unbiased manner, or does the writing indicate an extreme or passionate position?
  • What is the site’s domain? Look at the domain name of the site (i.e. .com, .net, .org, etc.). Sites with .gov or .edu are almost always reliable; sites with .org are generally sponsored by a non-profit organization and are usually (not always) reliable; sites with .com, .net, or a domain from another country (i.e. .ca for Canada) can be reliable. Never evaluate a site by the domain alone – use other criteria as well.
  • Where is the site getting its information? Check that the site contains references, citations, or otherwise cites the source of its information. Be sure that those sources are reputable.

For other tips and suggestions for evaluating web sites, please refer to the following links: