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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:

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.

Look in the Library's QuickSearch

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

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

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

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

Step-by-step 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.

Search SportDiscus

Database search
Limit Your Results
Look in the Library's QuickSearch

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

Do your references pass the CRAAP test?

When was this source published?

How old are the references and data used?

Has this source, or its data, been updated?

Does this type of information get updated?

Is there likely to be more recent information available elsewhere?

Is this information relevant to your assignment? Is there likely to be better information?

Is this aimed at the correct audience?

Who wrote it? What are their qualifications?

Where do they work? Who do they work for?

Are they likely to have a good understanding of this field?

Is the information reliable?

Can you find the original source?

What is the quality of the presentation? Are there significant errors?

Do the conclusions match the data?

Have all sides been considered?

Why has the article been written?

Is there any obvious bias? Is the author or their employer likely to get a benefit out of the recommendations?

Is it recommending a particular course of action or therapy? Does the data support this? Are any alternatives considered?