Skip to Main Content


What is a peer-reviewed journal article?

Publishing without peer review - articles are submitted, selected and possibly modified by the editor, and published.

Illustration of submit-edit-publish process without peer review

Publishing with peer review - submitted articles are reviewed by other experts in the field before being accepted for publication.

Illustration of submit-peer review-publish process


In some databases, the filter or limit for peer-reviewed journals refers to them as Academic or Scholarly journals. In this context, they are the same thing: credible journals in the academic field are peer-reviewed.



Finding journal articles

For a lot of assessment tasks you need to find peer-reviewed journal articles.

This is a taste of the process that leads from research > to evidence > to changes in professional practice.
You might find yourself doing something similar in later employment to justify or recommend a change in practice.

QuickSearch is one place you can find these articles with relative ease.


QuickSearch can find these articles with relative ease, but might include many articles that are not related to your topic.

Click the button below for information on finding, reading, and referencing journal articles in QuickSearch

1. Start in QuickSearch. Type in some search words for a topic and click Search (Library main page) or the magnifying glass search icon (in QuickSearch). 

screenshot of QuickSearch showing search example and indicating search button (magnifying glass symbol)

Search tips:

AND is optional, the same as in Google.
e.g. climate change health gets the same result as climate change AND health

You can use parentheses (round brackets) and OR to search for multiple alternative words or phrases, the same as in Google.
e.g. ("climate change" OR "global warming") AND health

The double quotation marks indicate phrases (a "lump" of multiple words found together, rather than searching fo reach word separately), also the same as in Google.

Because QuickSearch looks at multiple sources, you might sometimes find the same article repeated from more than one source.

2. Click on the link for Peer-reviewed Journals (this limits your results to quality journals where articles undergo a review process before being published).

screenshot of QuickSearch indicating limit by Peer-reviewed journals

3. Often you will want to limit by Creation Date (publication date) as well.

  • For health-related research, a good rule-of-thumb is to only use articles from the last 5 years.
  • For some other areas of research, articles from the last 10 years might be better.
  • In some areas, the date of the article may be less important (e.g. historical research).

screenshot of QuickSearch indicating change of Publication Date range

4. Depending on the number and variation of your results, you can also limit by Topic

screenshot of QuickSearch indicating Topic limits.

Remember: after a Quick Search, limit by the 3 Ts - Type (of document), Time (of publication), and Topic.

5. To read any article, click on the Full text available link under each article.

screenshot of QuickSearch indicating full-text link under each result

6. One or more "Full text" providers will be listed. Click on the blue Go button beside any full text provider.

screenshot of SFX screen indicating blue Go button

Different providers will vary in their presentation (in a few of them, you will have to search for the article again).

7. Most providers will have a PDF link somewhere on the page so you can view the full article (and download or print the article).

screenshot of full-text page indicating PDF link

The PDF tools and icons will vary according to your operating system, web browser used, version of Adobe Acrobat, and the website setup of the full text provider
screenshot of PDF with download and print icons indicated



After clicking the button above and reading how to search in QuickSearch, try it yourself using the QuickSearch box below.

For example, try:

("climate change" OR "global warming") AND coffee

Don't forget: Restrict to Peer-reviewed Journals, about the last 5 years, and maybe restrict further by Topic.

Click the Settings option (may be showing on its own but more likely to be under the three-line menu icon)

screenshot, Google Scholar, indicating Settings option

Click on the Library links option, and search for federation

screenshot indicating Library links option and search box (with federation already typed in)

Tick the checkbox for Federation University Australia, and (important!) click the Save button.

screenshot showing results of search for word federation and indicating Save button

If you are logged into a Google account (GMail, etc), this setting will be saved permanently.
Otherwise, you might have to redo this setup every time you restart your web browser to use Google Scholar.

Depending on your topic, this might make many more full-text resources available in your Google Scholar results, resources that the Library has paid for.

screenshot, Google Scholar results list, indicating full text access, both Library paid subscription links and open access links

Start in Google Scholar. Search for a topic. Here we have searched for:

("climate change" OR "global warming") AND coffee AND agricultural

Use the links on the left to limit results to the last 5 years.

 screenshot of Google Scholar, showing Boolean search, and  indicating limit for last 5 years

  • The ANDs in the screenshot are not required (they are implied in Google and Google Scholar), but do not modify the search, and are included here for clarity.
  • The round brackets (parentheses) and OR are used to search for alternative terms for the same concept.
  • The quotation marks are used to search for phrases (a "lump of words always found together") rather than searching for each word separately.

When using Google Scholar, see the CRAAP test (below) to evaluate each article before relying it as a reference.

To read results from Google Scholar, look for either an open access link on the right-hand side, or (if you have added Federation University as instructed above) use the Find it @Federationlink to connect to material provided via the Library.

screenshot, Google Scholar, indicating full text links, both through Library paid subscriptions and open access

After clicking the buttons and reading the sections above, try searching Google Scholar yourself:

Google Scholar - journal articles and other material (as detailed above, you can link Google Scholar to the Library's paid full-text subscriptions)


Google Scholar has a citation feature, but always check the citation it supplies. It may be incorrect (no upper case letter to start a subtitle, for example) or incomplete (missing the DOI, for example).

Click the quotation mark icon to pop up a window (unless blocked by pop-up settings in your web browser) containing a reference list entry several referencing styles and links to export formats for bibliographic management software (e.g. EndNote).

screenshots from Google Scholar, indicating citation icon and showing the pop-up window

Warning:The referencing output from Google Scholar (and other automated referencing systems) is often incorrect or incomplete. Always check any referencing you have not done manually (you can use FedCite to check referencing).

For example, the example above from Google Scholar, as well as missing a DOI, also has the journal name in lower case - although there are some journals that use a lower case journal name, it is rare.

A correct reference entry would be:

DaMatta, F. M., Avila, R. T., Cardoso, A. A., Martins, S. C., & Ramalho, J. C. (2018). Physiological and agronomic performance of the coffee crop in the context of climate change and global warming: A review. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 66(21), 5264-5274.

Note the "headline capitalisation" of the journal name, the "sentence capitalisation" of the article title, and note that the journal name and the volume number (but not the issue number) are in italics.

Underneath many articles in your Google Scholar results will be a Cited by link - this points to newer articles that have used the article in their reference list. Some of these (but not all) may be on the same topic, so it can be another way of finding newer relevant articles.

This can also be a rough guide to how much impact an article has had - articles with more impact tend to be cited more.

screenshot, Google Scholar, showing Cited by link underneath an article in the results list

Searching a database

Databases mainly search in journal articles, often in a specific topic area, so you get fewer irrelevant results.


After clicking the button above and reading how to search in NAME, try it yourself:

Connect to NAME


Look in the Library's QuickSearch

Library QuickSearch - items on the shelves or in the Library's electronic collections and subscriptions

Search Builder

Building a database search strategy

What is your research question?

Type your research question into the box above, then click the Next button (below).

Continue reading these instructions (they change on each step) and clicking the Next button to progress to each new step.
Concept 1
Concept 2
Concept 3
Exclude this concept




Ready-to-use search strategies

Search strategy for Scopus or Trip database:

Search strategy for other databases:


Copy and paste the search strategy into Scopus or your preferred database

Although rewritten from scratch, this search builder owes a huge debt of thanks to Ray White of UWA Library for his presentation to the online SpringyCamp Australia 2017.

Database search

Search NAME



Reading wisely

The typical peer-reviewed primary research article contains some or all of the following sections (and possibly other sections not mentioned here). Click each one to learn more:

The abstract provides a brief summary of the journal article contents.

Look at the abstract when deciding whether to select and use an article in your search results.

animated GIF representing article being mechanically compressed to an abstract

The introduction sets the background and context of the article, and may include the reason the research was undertaken.

Pay attention to this section on your first reading.

cartoon, Jessica and article shaking hands

The methodology might not be included in some "discussion articles", but will be included in many research articles.

It gives explicit details of how the research was conducted, and should be sufficient to reproduce the research.

On your first reading you might skip over this section.

It's the research equivalent of a cooking recipe.


cartoon, Jessica pouring coffee
To consistently make the best mocha requires adhering to a strict recipe.


Results and analysis (sometimes merged, sometimes separate sections) give a detailed listing of the research results, and details on how the results were summarised and interpreted, and may include statistical details.

On a first reading you might skip over this section.

This section might not be present in some "discussion articles".

cartoon, Jessica with LOTS of numbers

This is usually a discussion of the results or other sections of the paper, including potential flaws in the research and implications of the results.

Pay attention to this section on your first reading.

cartoon, Jessica with cartoon talking article

This usually sums up the outcome or recommendations from the research or discussion. It is the "bottom line" of the article.

Pay attention to this section on your first reading.

cartoon, Jessica concluding cats are better than dogs

At this point, you might want to consider whether the results and the analysis justifies the conclusion, or whether a strong conclusion is being made from insufficient or uncertain results.

Good-quality journal articles will provide references to either support the ideas and arguments in the article, or to provide a source for the ideas and information used. In-text citations in the other sections will show where each reference has been used. On a first reading you might skip over this section.

If you are using a recent article, the references can be a good source for finding more articles on the same topic.

quality research acknowledges its sources

Browsing Platforms and Extensions

        LibKey Nomad - Sacred Heart University Library Newsletter for Faculty No.  19 (October 2019) - Research Guides at Sacred Heart University

In QuickSearch you can access journal articles via BrowZine by clicking View Issue Contents, or via LibKey Nomad by clicking on Download PDF.

LibKey Nomad automatically places a button in the bottom left-hand corner of a compatible webpage. This button changes its appearance to indicate what access is available. 


Critical appraisal

Need to critically appraise a randomized controlled trial or a systematic review, or some other type of research article?

Critical appraisal checklists can be found at:


Riegelman, R. K. (2005). Studying a study and testing a test: How to read the medical evidence (5th ed.).

Appraising qualitative research articles:

Côté, L. (2005). Appraising qualitative research articles in medicine and medical education.

Critical appraisal of Indigenous research:

Harfield, S., Pearson, O., Morey, K., Kite, E., Canuto, K., Glover, K., Gomersall, J. S., Carter, D., Davy, C., Aromataris, E., & Braunack-Mayer, A. (2020). Assessing the quality of health research from an Indigenous perspective: the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander quality appraisal tool. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 20(1), 1-9.

Lock, M. J., Walker, T., & Browne, J. (2021). Promoting cultural rigour through critical appraisal tools in First Nations peoples’ research. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 45(3), 210–211.