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MSE 4030: Senior Materials Lab (Fall 2020)

Research guide to finding the literature of engineering articles, patents, books, and standards.


This research guide lists top tools and databases to help you find scholarly information on a variety of subjects. Address any questions to Jill Powell, Engineering Librarian,

Peer reviewed articles

Oceanography journal cover National Geographic journal cover

What's the difference between these 2 journals? Oceanography is peer-reviewed, whereas National Geographic is a popular-press title. 

Peer review is scientists' and other scholars' best effort to publish accurate information. Each article has been submitted by a researcher, and then reviewed by other scholars in the same field to ensure that it is sound science. What they are looking for is that:

  • The methodology has been fully described (and the study can thus be replicated by another researcher)
  • There are no obvious errors of calculation or statistical analysis
  • The findings support the conclusions. That is, do the results of the research support what the researcher has said about them?
  • It isn't a perfect system: Scientists make errors (or commit fraud) as often as any other human being and sometimes bad articles slip through. But in general, peer-review ensures that several trained eyes have seen an article before it appears in print.

Peer-reviewed journals are generally considered "primary source" material: When a new scientific discovery is made, a peer-reviewed journal is often--but not always--the first place it appears.

Popular and trade publications are not peer-reviewed, they are simply edited. That does not mean they are any less potentially truthful or informative--most popular and trade publications take pride in careful fact-checking.* But when the topic is scientific research, the information is generally "secondary": It has already appeared elsewhere (usually in a peer-reviewed journal) and has now been "digested" for a broader audience.

If you want to verify that a journal is peer-reviewed, check Ulrich's Periodical Directory.

Some sources of peer-reviewed articles:

Cornell Votes! Every Person. Every Voice.
Library Guide