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Library Orientation: Education Resources

This guide will provide an overview of library services. It will also provide an introduction to library resources with a special attention given to those in the field of education.

Peer Review, Scholarly Sources, and Empirical Studies

How to Tell If a Journal is Peer Reviewed

Many library databases including those owned by EBSCO and ProQuest give you the option to limit your search results to only those results that are peer reviewed. Look for the option to limit your results either on the search page or after the results are returned as a way to refine your search.

If you are still unsure if an article has been you can try the following things.

  • Find the journal’s website.  Look on the website for information about the editorial policy, submission process or requirements for author’s submission.  This section of the website will often give insight into whether or not the journal has a peer review process. 
  • If you still cannot determine if it is peer reviewed, please feel free to call, text, or email the reference librarians and ask them and someone will find out for you and get back to you a.s.a.p.


Chart created by: SDSU Library & Information Access






Expert (scholar, professor, researcher, etc.) in field covered. Author is always named.

Journalist; nonprofessional or layperson. Sometimes author is not named.

Business or industry representative. Sometimes author is not named.


Usually includes notes and/or bibliographic references.

Few or no notes or bibliographic references.

Few or no notes or bibliographic references.


News and research (methodology, theory) from the field.

Current events; general interest.

Business or industry information (trends, products, techniques).


Written for experts using technical language.

Journalistic; written for nonprofessional or layperson.

Written for people in the business or industry using technical language.


Scholars or researchers in the field.

General public.

People in the business or industry.


Usually reviewed by peer scholars (referees) not employed by the journal.

Reviewed by one or more editors employed by the magazine.

Reviewed by one or more editors employed by the magazine.


Plain; mostly print, sometimes with black and white figures, tables, graphs and/or charts.

Glossy, with many pictures in color.

Glossy, with many pictures in color.


Few or none; if any, usually for books or other professional materials.

Many, often in color.

Some, often in color.


Usually monthly or quarterly.

Usually weekly or monthly.

Usually weekly or monthly.


Developmental Psychology (published by the American Psychological Association).

Rolling Stone (commercially published).

Monitor on Psychology (published by the American Psychological Association

What Are Empirical Studies?

"Empirical studies are reports of original research. These include secondary analyses that test hypotheses by presenting novel analyses of data not considered or addressed in previous reports. They typically consist of distinct sections that reflect the stages in the research process and that appear in the following sequence:

-introduction: development of the problem under investigation, including its historical antecedents, and statement of the purpose of the investigation;

-method: description of the procedures used to conduct the investigation;

-results: report of the findings and analyses; and

-discussion: summary, interpretation, and implications of the results.

(This is an excerpt from the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. 6th edition. 2009, and is intended for educational use only.)

What Doesn't Count as an Empirical Study?

  1.  If an article does not discuss research methods it is unlikely to be an empirical study.
  2. Empirical studies are unlikely to be found in popular magazines or newspapers, and if they are, they are unlikely to be reported with sufficient detail. 

  3. Essays, textbooks, reviews of existing research or what is known in the field, and practitioner articles are all useful, but, they are not empirical research. 

How to find an Empirical Study

You can find empirical studies reported in journals, in dissertations, and in government document sources like ERIC. Here is a video tutorial demonstrating some search techniques to use to find these. [LINK TO VIDEO]