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peer review

Most academic writing that appears in print has been assessed by several anonymous readers who are familiar with the academic field, as well as by editors. These readers send in reports, which as well as recommending whether or not an essay or book should be published, also offer feedback to the author, who is expected to respond to these comments by revising their work.

This "peer-review system" is regarded as a key guarantee of the quality and reliability of published academic work. When assessing the value of secondary literature you should always ask yourself whether it has been subject to peer-review - this can safely be assumed about books published by academic presses, and articles in academic journals, but probably won't be the case for most material published online.