A Visit to the Doctor. Color etching. Thomas Rowlandson, 1818. Courtesy of The National Library of Medicine.

You eat well, you drink well and you sleep well...Depend upon it, I will give you something that shall do away all these things.

Is that journal article peer-reviewed?

Due to the U.S. Supreme Court Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. decision in 1993, peer-reviewed medical literature became greatly elevated in importance to attorneys. It should be emphasized, however, that peer-review systems among journals are not standardized, and reviewing practices and procedures vary widely. And there are many limitations and shortcomings of the peer-review process as well, pointed out in a 2007 article published by Susan Haack in the Stetson Law Review, Vol. 36, entitled "Peer Review and Publication Lessons for Lawyers" that can be downloaded from here. All of that said, here are some pointers on locating peer-reviewed medical literature.

Unarguably, the best source in the United States for locating authoritative medical literature is the MEDLINE database produced by The National Library of Medicine, searchable free of charge at PubMed. Unfortunately one cannot restrict searches at PubMed to peer-reviewed journals. However the great majority of the journals indexed in MEDLINE ARE peer-reviewed and must pass a rigorous review process to be included in the database.

A journal's Website or its sponsoring organization's Website should indicate if a particular journal is peer-reviewed. One sometimes has to navigate a bit to find this information. Also the first pages of a peer-reviewed copy of a print journal will likely state that fact.

Two well-known databases, available at many libraries but not accessible to individual subscribers, allow one to restrict searches to  peer-reviewed journals:

Ulrichsweb: Global Serials Directory. Ulrich's uses the term, "refereed," however, instead of "peer-reviewed."

CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature) has a limiter for searching only peer-reviewed journals. Nearly every hospital library subscribes to the CINAHL database, but unfortunately, most don't offer it to the general public.

Good luck in determining if that journal is peer-reviewed. If located through a PubMed search, know that it probably is.

Expert Medical Literature Research for Attorneys
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E-mail: patmill@medmatters.net


This Tips for Attorneys page was last updated with links verified by MedMatters on September 15, 2021.

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