A journal for which manuscripts submitted by potential contributors are evaluated by at least one subject specialist in addition to the editor prior to acceptance for publication. Synonymous with refereed.
A peer-reviewed, or refereed, publication has been approved by an editorial board of experts in the relevant field. "Peer reviewed" is mostly synonymous with the terms "scholarly publications," "academic journals," and "professional literature."
These materials are different than popular publications such as magazines and newspapers. In general, they often:
- Report on original research or contain a new theoretical discussion
- Are written by a credentialed expert in their field
- Contain footnotes and/or a bibliography
- Are written for an audience of students and scholars and use specialized language
- Are published by a professional organization
- Contain little advertising
You can often tell if a journal is scholarly by its title. An example of a scholarly journal is The American Journal of Sports Medicine -- compared to the popular magazine Sports Illustrated.
Explaining peer-review as a special type of publication is a common component in library instruction. "Where are the scholarly journals?" can be a frequent reference desk question, as college and university students are often given assignments which require the use of peer-reviewed literature.
The time delays in publishing peer-reviewed works can be criticized. The advent of instant, online publishing, especially of preprints which can be picked up by the media, has ramifications for the peer-review process -- as do newer publishing models such as weblogs and Wikis. The Sokal Affair, in which a peer-reviewed sociology journal published an article of patent nonsense, highlights other potential problems with the process.