Understanding the peer-review process

The peer-review process is used to assess scholarly articles. Experts in a discipline similar to the author critique an article’s methodology, findings, and reasoning to evaluate it for possible publication in a scholarly journal. Editors of scholarly journals use the peer-review process to decide which articles to publish, and the academic world relies on the peer review process to validate scholarly articles.

Peer review process steps

  1. A researcher writes an article and submits it for publication to a scholarly journal.
  2. The journal editor gives the article an initial read to see whether it fits within the journal’s scope.
  3. If the article passes this phase, the editor selects reviewers who are experts in the same field as that of the author (which is why they are called “peers”). The reviewers may also be referred to as referees because they make judgments about the article’s quality. The reviewers often do not know who the author is, and the author does not know who the reviewers are.
  4. The reviewers evaluate the article on the basis of its quality, methodology, potential bias, ethical issues, and any other factors that would affect the research.
  5. The reviewers make a recommendation on whether the article should be published, including whether the article needs major or minor revisions. The editor makes a final decision on whether the article should be rejected, rejected with the request for revisions, or accepted.
  6. If an author is asked to make revisions, the author can resubmit the article after addressing the reviewers’ comments. This process may go through several rounds before an article is ultimately accepted.
  7. If an article is published in a subscription-based journal, the article is available to subscribers of that journal. Subscribers are usually university and college libraries, as subscriptions are expensive. If an article is published in an open access journal, the article is available for anyone to read for free online.
  8. The peer-review process may continue even after an article has been published. Authors and editors may make corrections to the article or even retract it if serious concerns arise.

Many professors will require you to use only peer-reviewed research for your assignments. View our guide to finding peer-reviewed articles to learn more about this process.

Peer review in 3 minutes

This video by the North Carolina State University Library describes the peer-review process.

View Video on Peer Review Process