Pharmacology: Academic sources

This is a guide to information resources and searching skills for pharmacology staff and students.

Academic Sources

In researching for essays and other academic assignment tasks, you will usually be looking for relevant information in academic sources. This section explains what an academic source is, and how to identify one, as well as the related concept of peer review.


Academic (or scholarly)




Peer reviewed (or refereed) articles

Your lecturers will often require that in assignments you use information from academic journal articles that are peer reviewed (an alternative term is “refereed”).  Peer review is a formal quality control process whereby:

  • a scholarly article submitted to a journal is evaluated by several recognised experts in that discipline.
  • “referees” judge whether it makes a sufficient contribution to knowledge in the discipline and is of a sufficient standard to justify publication.

Academic book manuscripts and many conference papers are also commonly peer reviewed. 




Non-academic sources

Articles from these publications, or with the following characteristics, are often NOT academic:

  • newspapers
  • magazines and trade journals
  • newsletters
  • journals published weekly or more frequently (although significant exceptions include Nature and Science)
  • very short articles (eg one or two pages)
  • articles that have no bibliography 

BUT, there are no absolute rules! Exercise critical judgement.  It is often appropriate and necessary to also refer to non-academic publications in an assignment. Be guided by the set requirements for the particular assignment.  If in doubt about the suitability of a particular article for an assignment task, ask your lecturer.



The Monash University Library site demonstrates the finer points of evaluating resources in Evaluating web pages.

This page is also accessible as a printable PDF version.


Peer review tutorial

The Quick guide to peer review tutorial provides a brief explanation of what peer review is, why it matters, and how to recognise peer reviewed sources.

parallel text version of the tutorial is also available