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Br Med J (Clin Res Ed). 1985 September 28; 291(6499): 884–886.
PMCID: PMC1416756

How accurate are quotations and references in medical journals?


The accuracy of quotations and references in six medical journals published during January 1984 was assessed. The original author was misquoted in 15% of all references, and most of the errors would have misled readers. Errors in citation of references occurred in 24%, of which 8% were major errors--that is, they prevented immediate identification of the source of the reference. Inaccurate quotations and citations are displeasing for the original author, misleading for the reader, and mean that untruths become "accepted fact." Some suggestions for reducing these high levels of inaccuracy are that papers scheduled for publication with errors of citation should be returned to the author and checked completely and a permanent column specifically for misquotations could be inserted into the journal.

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Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Relman AS. How reliable are letters? N Engl J Med. 1983 May 19;308(20):1219–1219. [PubMed]
  • Roland CG. Thoughts about medical writing. XXXVII. Verify your references. Anesth Analg. 1976 Sep-Oct;55(5):717–718. [PubMed]
  • Glass AR. Should letters be reviewed? N Engl J Med. 1983 May 19;308(20):1232–1232. [PubMed]
  • Key JD, Roland CG. Reference accuracy in articles accepted for publication in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1977 Mar;58(3):136–137. [PubMed]
  • McKinn EJ, Johnson ED. Techniques of Online Citation Verification in NLM Databases. Med Ref Serv Q. 1983;2(3):1–23. [PubMed]
  • Bassler TJ. Cardiomythology. Lancet. 1984 Apr 7;1(8380):788–789. [PubMed]
  • Lock S. Two cheers for the computer? Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985 Jun 1;290(6482):1609–1610. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Issenman J, Nolan MF, Rowley J, Hobby R. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation for pain control after spinal fusion with Harrington rods. A clinical report. Phys Ther. 1985 Oct;65(10):1517–1520. [PubMed]

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