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Check your reference list!

October 19, 2010 Filed under Blog, Featured, Writing 

A recent paper published in Scientometrics by Robert Lopresti looks at the accuracy of citations in the five leading environmental science journals. Lopresti found that 24.4% of the references in the reference list had errors in them. Almost half of the errors were in the authors names. Almost 30% of the errors were in the titles. The third most common error was in the page numbers (11.4%).

Only one article of the 53 checked by Lopresti contained no errors in the references that were able to be checked.

The message should be loud and clear. Check and double-check your reference list before you submit your manuscript and again in the page proofs. Do not copy references from another article without checking their accuracy.

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2 Responses to “Check your reference list!”
  1. Jon Zeitler says:

    Thanks for posting this Dave. Other than papers from one of the example authors listed in your recent EJSSM article on case studies, I cannot think of a paper I’ve reviewed that didn’t have reference errors. One tip for authors and reviewers: find a large desk and lay out the reference pages (single sided print) next to the text and figures as you review the paper. Checkmark each reference as it appears in the paper (and in the reference list), even for subsequent occurrences if it was properly referenced on the first occurrence. Not only will this help the author (through your review) minimize the errors identified by Lopresti, but the number of checkmarks per reference helps clarify the paper’s motivation, methods, and influences from prior work.

  2. Matthew Bunkers says:

    This is one of my biggest frustrations as both a reviewer and a former editor. It is relatively easy to check the references and citations, but rarely is it done sufficiently. Ironically, I’ve noticed a direct relationship between the number of authors and the number of mistakes.

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