OC logo


Skip to main content

History: Scholarly & Peer Reviewed Sources

This guide list resources that will get you started on doing historical research. Some sources will be more specific on certain periods and geographical locations.

What are periodicals?

Periodicals are publications that come out on a regular schedule.  There are five main categories of periodicals: 1) scholarly journals, 2) trade/professional journals, 3) general interest/news publications, 4) popular magazines, and 5) sensational magazines.


About Scholarly Sources

In general, information that has been been created, selected, or reviewed by experts is more reliable, helpful, and accurate.  These "experts" are often referred to as "scholars" and thus the articles and books they produce are referred to as scholarly sources. 

Scholarly sources can be in the format of books, encyclopedias, and journal articles.   

Scholarly sources are not typically free and accessible from Google searches.

Peer Reviewed Journals

Description and Purpose

"Many scholarly journals use a process of peer review prior to publishing an article, whereby other scholars in the author's field or specialty critically assess a draft of the article. Peer-reviewed journals (also called refereed journals) are scholarly journals that only publish articles that have passed through this review process. The review process helps ensure that the published articles reflect solid scholarship in their fields."  Check out the Author Guidelines to see the exacting standards required to submit an article to the Physical Therapy Journal!

Peer-Reviewed Journals versus Scholarly Journals

"Scholarly journals contain articles written by, and addressed to, experts in a discipline. They are concerned with academic study, especially research, and demonstrate the methods and concerns of scholars. The main purpose of a scholarly journal is to report original research or experimentation and to communicate this information to the rest of the scholarly world. The language of scholarly journals reflects the discipline covered, as it assumes some knowledge or background on the part of the reader. Scholarly journals always rigorously cite their sources in the form of footnotes or bibliographies. Many scholarly journals are published by professional organizations."

"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."

Characteristics of Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

Peer reviewed articles will often have the following characteristics: biographical information about the author(s) including their professional affiliations, extensive bibliography, footnotes, or endnotes; technical jargon specific to the field; a structured abstract containing distinct parts such as introduction, methodology, data, results, discussion, conclusions, etc. To help determine if a particular journal is peer-reviewed, refer to the journal itself (either to an individual issue of the journal or to the publisher's web site).

Finding Peer-Reviewed Journals and Journal Articles

There is no comprehensive source for identifying all peer-reviewed journals.  However, some online databases to which the Library subscribes allow you to click in a check box to limit results to only peer-reviewed or scholarly articles. These include EBSCOhost's databases:  Academic Search Premier, CINAHL, and Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection and ProQuest.


Source: CalPoly Robert E. Kennedy Library. (N.d.) Finding Peer-reviewed or Refereed Journals. Viewed 10/2/2009: http://lib.calpoly.edu/research/guides/peer.html

Types of Periodicals


Source: Research Minutes: How to Identify Scholarly Journal Articles. Olin Library. Cornell University. 28 Feb. 2008 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDGJ2CYfY9A

Guidelines for determining if a source is scholarly

Generally scholarly sources have the following characteristics:

  • Written for a specialized audience
  • Articles by subject experts
  • Authors from academic institutions (see article below for exceptions)
  • Highly focused topics
  • Primary research or literature reviews
  • Peer-reviewed
  • Include bibliographies

Having academic credentials (an advanced degree) is not enough to make someone a subject expert; the degree must be in the subject or a closely related subject that the person is writing about.  For instance, someone who has a PhD in economics and writes about nutrition is not a nutritional subject expert.

Source consulted:  Quaratiello, A. R. (2007).  Finding periodicals.  The college student's research companion (4th ed.). New York: Neal-Schuman.