Find the right stuff

What is a peer-reviewed article?

Description and purpose

A peer-reviewed article is published in a peer-reviewed journal only after it has been subjected to multiple critiques by scholars in that field. Peer-reviewed journals follow this procedure to make sure that published articles reflect solid scholarship and advance the state of knowledge in a discipline. These articles present the best and most authoritative information that disciplines have to offer. Also, through the careful use of citations, a peer-reviewed article allows anyone who reads it to examine the bases of the claims made in the article. Peer-reviewed articles lead to many articles in a chain of information.

The Article Universe

The Article Universe

One drawback to the peer-review process is that articles may not appear for one or two years after they are written. For this reason they are not the best sources to seek for hot, news-driven topics.

Where to find them?

Article Databases
Article databases help you find the articles and research information that you need. Find databases listed by topic, by database name, or do a quick search to find just a few articles.
College Librarians
Meet your college librarian! College librarians are an invaluable resource and can help you with finding and using information related to your courses and major.
Cite correctly
Useful information on citing your sources in various formats.
Research Guides by Subject or Major
Research Guides contain links to web sites and databases as well as other pointers to useful resources, tailored for specific subjects.
Research Help
Learn how to use Kennedy Library’s services and online tools, and how to plan your research project.
What is a peer-reviewed journal?

Description and purpose

Many scholarly journals use a process of peer review prior to publishing an article, whereby other scholars in the author’s field or specialty critically assess a draft of the article. Peer-reviewed journals (also called refereed journals) are scholarly journals that only publish articles that have passed through this review process. The review process helps ensure that the published articles reflect solid scholarship in their fields.

Finding peer-reviewed journals and journal articles

There is no comprehensive source for identifying all peer-reviewed journals. However, some online databases to which the library subscribes have begun to flag the peer-reviewed journals so they can be searched in the database.  To get started looking for peer reviewed articles, try this research guide.

Three ellipses depict three sets of types of articles.  All articles encompass the subset of scholarly articles which encompass the subset of peer-reviewed articles.

The Article Universe

Peer-reviewed journals versus scholarly journals

Scholarly journals contain articles written by, and addressed to, experts in a discipline. They are concerned with academic study, especially research, and demonstrate the methods and concerns of scholars. The main purpose of a scholarly journal is to report original research or experimentation and to communicate this information to the rest of the scholarly world. The language of scholarly journals reflects the discipline covered, as it assumes some knowledge or background on the part of the reader. Scholarly journals always rigorously cite their sources in the form of footnotes or bibliographies. Many scholarly journals are published by professional organizations. While not all scholarly journals go through the peer-review process, it is usually safe to assume that a peer-reviewed journal is also scholarly.

Books and ebooks

Search for Books

At Kennedy Library

New books and popular reading books (“Good Reads”) are featured on the second floor near Julian’s Patisserie. These items are also available for check-out.

At Our Partner Libraries

  • Link+ —Use Link+ to search for books at our partner libraries, including many university and public libraries. These books may be requested through the Link+ system and then delivered to Kennedy Library for pick-up. Use the barcode number located on the back of your PolyCard when requesting items.  Requests for items held at Kennedy Library will not be processed, so please check PolyCat prior to requesting through Link+. Delivery time: 3-5 days
A map of California with three parameters illustrating the three type of Access. Use PolyCat of re seeing which books we own and journals we subscribe to. Use Link+ for ordering books in the region. Use interlibrary loan (ILL) for articles and books not covered by the above services.

The Three Types of Access Offered Through Kennedy Library

At Libraries Worldwide

  • WorldCat —Use WorldCat to search for books from libraries across the United States and other countries.
  • Interlibrary Loan —Use Interlibrary Loan (ILL) to request items not available at Kennedy Library or through Link+. Delivery time: 7-14 days

Accessing eBooks

Kennedy Library provides access to thousands of eBooks in many different subject areas.

For assistance with eBooks, contact research help by chat, telephone (805.756.2649), email, or in person at the Research Help Desk.

Open access (free) eBooks

There are also many other eBooks freely available on the web. These are primarily older books, which are no longer restricted by copyright law. Some sites also offer previews of newer books, and can be a great way to discover what books are available on a topic.

Google Books
Google has partnered with libraries to provide full and partial content to more than 20 million books.Google Books offers advanced search options, personal library and book list and other features. In addition to conventional books, Google Books now offers online editions of older trade and popular magazines (e.g. Life, Mother Jones). This is a great source to identify potential books and read a sample to learn if the book will be useful to you.
Hathi Trust
A large-scale collaborative repository of digital content from research libraries including content digitized via the Google Books project as well as content digitized by libraries. HathiTrust provides access to over 5.5 million books. HathiTrust provides a number of discovery and access services, notably, full-text search across the entire repository.
Internet Archive
The Internet Archive is a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Like a paper library, they provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public.Their Open Library project features over 1 million freely available eBook titles.

Requesting Books

Need Help?

Google Scholar

What is Google Scholar?


Articles available through a Kennedy Library-paid subscription will appear with the words "Find It at Cal Poly" to the right or hidden under the "More" link.

Articles available through a Kennedy Library-paid subscription will appear with the words “Find It at Cal Poly” to the right or hidden under the “More” link.

Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, abstracts and articles. Search results may be from academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories, universities and other scholarly organizations. Set Library Links for Cal Poly to access materials the library has subscribed to.

How do I set Library Links for Cal Poly?

Why use the “Find It at Cal Poly” links?

Google may have indexed the search result from a source to which we do not subscribe. Using “Find It at Cal Poly” will check for the requested material in a library-subscribed resource. If the library does not have access to the item you will have the option to request it via Interlibrary Services. For more information, see our How-to guide to Find It.

What if I’m asked to pay for an article?

Use our Interlibrary Services to borrow materials not owned by Kennedy Library.

'Find It' for full-text articles and books

What is Find It?

Find It is an online tool that tells you if the Library has access to the resource you want. When the item is available online, Find It links directly to it. If Kennedy Library doesn’t have the item electronically, Find It searches PolyCat to see if we have it in print. If not, Find It can help you get it through an Interlibrary Services request.

Look for the Find It button

Find It button  If a database is Find It enabled you will see the Find It button next to the records in your search results. Click it to find the full-text of an article or book chapter online, in print at Kennedy Library, or to request it from another library.

Find It example


Find It FAQs

Which resources are Find It enabled?

Many of the databases that Cal Poly subscribes to are Find It enabled. When you select a database to search, the information screen will have the Find It icon, indicating available Find It services.

How do I use Find It?

Look for the Find It button after doing your search in a database. It can appear in the results list, but may only appear after you select a record. Clicking on the Find It button opens a menu window displaying your options, such as a link to the full-text article.

Why all the windows?

When you click Find It, a new window opens to display the Find It Menu. Selecting an option from the menu will open another window. Each window can be re-sized and will stay open until you close it. Be careful to close only your Find It windows and not your original database search window.

Why does the number of options in the Find It menu vary?

Find It dynamically generates the menu options that are available for the record you select, so the results may differ from one record to another.

Why does the Find It button appear even if the full text is already available from the database?

Once a database is Find It enabled the button always appears with the search results. You have the option of viewing the article directly or exploring other sources for the full text.

Why isn’t full text always available online?

The full-text online option is available only if Kennedy Library owns that item. We don’t subscribe to all titles, and not all titles are available online. If the Library owns the print copy, that option will be presented to you.

When full text is available, why don’t I always go to the article level?

Find It takes you as close as it can to the actual article. Sometimes Find It can only get to the table of contents or the journal’s homepage because of restrictions by the publisher or database design.

Why doesn’t the Find It menu appear when I click on the Find It button?

Software such as Pop-up Zapper and Pop-up Stopper turns off Find It as well, since Find It uses a pop-up window. If you have such software installed on your computer, you will need to turn it off in order to open the Find It menu.

What if my question isn’t answered here, or I need help with my search?

Get help!