Research 101: Why do professors require peer-reviewed sources?

Posted by Sara Volmering on

You’re reading through your syllabus and see the dreaded words: PEER-REVIEWED SOURCES REQUIRED. 

Why does peer review matter? Why can’t you ‘Google it?’ 

Tap a few buttons, and BOOM! Instant information, whether you’re looking for a pumpkin cheesecake recipe or lyrics to Harry’s latest tune. But even when searching for recipes, you still pay attention to the reviews, right?

Peer-reviewed articles have been scrutinized by other experts for validity, quality and accuracy. 

“Scholarship is a conversation,” says Lexi Smith, Humanities Librarian at WMU. “To contribute to the topic of your choice, you want to back up your argument and statements with the most current, factual, and accurate data.”

Imagine you’re looking for research on climate change. Which would you trust more: 

  • An article on someone’s website with no reviews, or
  • An article reviewed by other experts published in a scientific journal

Other sources can be helpful, but you need to evaluate them carefully. Use them with peer-reviewed sources to better understand your topic.

How to find peer-reviewed sources

There are a few ways to find sources:

Use Library Search (your best bet).

  • Easy to use.
  • Filter results for “peer-review.”
  • Access the full article, not just a preview.

Go directly to a database for your subject (Business, Nursing, Biology, etc.).

  • Start on our website to access our database subscription (free!).
  • Use our guides to find the best databases for your subject.

Google Scholar