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PSY424/436 Research guide: Critiquing the literature

Critical appraisal or critiquing the literature

Reading critically

The Sage Research Methods Online database (SRMO) is a good source of full text electronic Books, chapters, and articles on a range of research methodologies.  It includes a wide range of items in relation to literature review processes, and importantly how to read critically.

Examples are:

Goodwyn, A. & Stables, A. W. (2004). Learning to Read Critically: Learning to read critically in language and literacy : SAGE Publications Ltd doi: 10.4135/9781849209410

Quinton, S. & Smallbone, T. (2006). How to read critically. In Sage Study Skills: Postgraduate research in business (pp. 81-96). : SAGE Publications Ltd doi: 10.4135/9781849209564.n6

Evaluating literature

While you are searching for relevant information about your topic you will need to think about the accuracy of the information, whether the information is from a reputable source, whether it is objective and current. The basic criteria for assessing information and questions you might want to think about are listed below. 


  • Is the information reliable?
  • Is the information error-free?
  • Is the information based on proven facts?
  • Can the information be verified against other reliable sources?


  • Who is the author?
  • Does he or she have the qualifications to speak/write on that topic?
  • Is the author affiliated with a reputable university or organization in this subject field?
  • Is the source peer reviewed or refereed?


  • What is the intended purpose of the information?
  • Is the information fact or opinion?
  • Is the information biased?


  • When was the information published?
  • Is the information current or out-dated?
  • Does currency matter in this topic?


  • Does the information covered meet your information needs?
  • Does it provide basic or in depth coverage

Further Reading:

Journal Rankings

Journals can be  compared to measure their level of influence within the research community. Note that this measure applies at journal level, and not at article level. A high ranked journal may indicate that a journal is well-regarded. 

The SCImago Journal and Country Rank (SJR) database can be used to compare and rank journals. ;SCImago does not include every journal; SCImago contains only those journals indexed in the Scopus citation database.

SJR publishes a range of metrics including an h-index (the number of articles n, that have that number of citations, n), and a quartile chart for each category based on its SJR score. The quartile chart is represented in the following way green=top quartile, yellow=second quartile, orange=third quartile, red=last quartile.

Reviewing a research paper

Check if the Journals are Peer Reviewed

While most databases offer a peer review limiter, Ulrichsweb is the best place to confirm the peer review status of a journal. This is because Ulrichsweb isn't like most databases - instead of collecting articles, Ulrichsweb is a specialised database that collects information about journals.

Ulrichsweb can be found by clicking on the database listings under the letter U on the Library's Journal Databases page

Why Peer Review?

Articles published in peer-reviewed or refereed journals have been through a formal approval process. An editor and one or more subject specialists review the article before it is accepted for publication. This process is intended to ensure that the article is accurate, well-researched, and contributes to the body of knowledge in the field.

Why does the journal type matter?

The subject area of a journal is important because it will impact the way someone writes about an issue.

To check if an article comes from a peer reviewed journal:

  • Search for the journal title (not the article title) or the journal ISSN
  • Locate the journal on the results list
  • If there is a referee's jumper ()in the column on the left it means the journal (and therefore the article) is peer reviewed. In the United States of America they refer to the peer review process as refereeing, hence the referee's jumper.

If you searched by journal title, you may get more than one result for the same journal. This sometimes indicates that there is both a hard copy and an electronic copy of this journal.

If you are unsure, you can always go back to the article record from your original search and get the journal's ISSN number from there. The ISSN is a unique number that is delegated to each journal.

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