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Year : 2012  |  Volume : 55  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 135-137
References in the Indian Journal of Pathology and Microbiology: Are they accurate?

1 Department of Pathology, J. N. Medical College, Belgaum, Karnataka State, India
2 Department of Microbiology, J. N. Medical College, Belgaum, Karnataka State, India

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Date of Web Publication11-Apr-2012

How to cite this article:
Panduranga C, Kirtilaxmi K B. References in the Indian Journal of Pathology and Microbiology: Are they accurate?. Indian J Pathol Microbiol 2012;55:135-7

How to cite this URL:
Panduranga C, Kirtilaxmi K B. References in the Indian Journal of Pathology and Microbiology: Are they accurate?. Indian J Pathol Microbiol [serial online] 2012 [cited 2023 Mar 21];55:135-7. Available from:


References are the most important appendage of a manuscript. They support comments and theories of authors and help readers to research the topic comprehensively. They also form the basis of transfer of scientific information. [1] It is primarily the responsibility of authors to check references against the original documents and to format these as per instruction of the journal. But this is not strictly followed by authors, which is the cause of error in citations. The reported error rate ranges from 3% to 60% in various biomedical journals. [2] So far no such study has been done in The Indian Journal of Pathology and Microbiology (IJPM). Hence this study was undertaken to observe the quality of citations in IJPM.

One seventy six references were randomly selected from all the articles (except review and editorial) of issue 4 of volume 53, 2010 and issue 1 of volume 54 of IJPM. "Instruction to the authors" of IJPM was read to know the reference style. Using six headings 1.Authors [spelling, initials, extra/missing], 2.Title [Spellings, punctuation, missing words] 3. Journal name [correct abbreviation as per Indus Medicus] 4. Year of publication; 5.Volume and 6. Page number [first and last], all the references were compared with the original. References from the non indexed journals were excluded. If there was multiple errors in one references it was counted as one error only. Text book references were also compared with original text books for accuracy. Citations errors were considered major if there was an error in the volume number, page number and Journal name, which will cause difficulty in retrieval of the original article and other errors were considered as minor. Statistical analysis was done using frequency and percentage.

Out of 176 references, 164 were cited from journals and 12 from text books. Of the 176 references, 8 references (3 from the journal citations and 5 from the text books) were excluded, as we were unable to trace the original source. Out of 168, 34 (20.22%) were found be incorrect. Out of 34, 8 (4.76%) were major errors and 26 (15.4%) were minor errors. The most common error was with author's name and was found to be incorrect in 20 (11.9%). Journal title/text book title were found to be incorrect in 6 (3.57%), journal name was found to be incorrect in 4 (2.38%), volume was found to be incorrect in 1 (0.59%), and page number error was identified in 3 (1.78%). There was no error with respect to year [Table 1]. Only one reference from the text book citation was incorrect out of 7. Some of the examples of errors in citing the references are given in [Table 2].
Table 1: Frequency of reference errors in Indian Journal of Pathology and Microbiology

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Table 2: Examples of errors in references in Indian Journal of Pathology and Microbiology

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The list of references at the end of an article is a very important part of any publication. This is because cited references form the basis on which the reported work intends to build on. [3] References serve as an important tool in providing credibility to the published literature and to assist retrieval of the cited and related information. The accuracy of journal article references should be a priority to all authors, reviewers, and readers. [2] The international committee of medical journal editors states unambiguously that references must be verified by the authors. [4] Citation of references with errors can make it difficult for the reader to retrieve reference and obtain, check, or verify the information to which the text of the paper refers. Major errors, such as volume, year, and page number make access to the journal difficult and minor errors, such as name of author impact negatively on the academic records of the authors. [1]

The reported citation error rate in various studies ranges from 3% to 60%. [1],[2] Doms [5] in his study on 5 national dental journals observed 70% of the references had minor errors and 30% had major errors. Singh et al. [3] observed in their study that minor errors are common than major errors. Our observation of 4.76% of major error is the lowest Figure reported in the literature. Roach et al. [6] observed an error rate of 60.7% in 3 major international obstetrics and gynecology journals, this is the high end of error rate reported. A study by Adhikari [7] in the indexed journals of Nepal revealed an error rate of 11.6% in Nepal Medical College Journal, 11.1% in Journal of Nepal Medical Association, and 23.3% in Kathmandu University Medical Journal. Our observation of error rate of 20.22% falls within the reported range. The error rate observed in other journals are 14% in Australasian Medical Journal, 30.1% in Indian Journal of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery, 56.0% in Hong Kong Medical Journal, 27.5% in three major American Medical Journals; 37.5% in otolaryngology/head and neck surgery and 56% in the articles submitted for publication in 5 major Radiology journals. [1] The most common error observed in the literature is the author's name as observed in our study.

In all the journals, in the "instruction for the authors section" it is written that "authors are responsible for the accuracy of references and must verify them against the original documents," however, this is not strictly followed by the authors. The authors probably consider the list of references as the least important appendage of the manuscript, and hence they fail to pay attention to it. Various authors have identified different causes for the inaccuracy of the references, most common being the carelessness of the author, over simplification of results, information taken from book chapter or from online source without searching for the original source, over sight, misguided idea that no one (editorial team, reviewers, or readers) will check them. [1],[2],[3],[7] It is difficult for editorial team to check all the articles submitted for publication, instead they can do a random checking of the references and if in any article references is found to be incorrect then complete checking of the references can be taken. [2]

Citations errors are ongoing phenomenon in most of the biomedical journals, but by the combined efforts of the editor, reviewer and authors it can be minimized. There are various suggestations by the previous authors to editors, reviewers and authors to decrease the citation errors. Editor can demand the first and last page of the cited references and can provide proof for the final correction. Reviewers can check a sample of references from the submitted article. Authors should try to decrease the number of references in there article and consult the original work or obtain it from the computer data base. [1,7] Some of the article uploading sites like Journal on web provides a link to check the references but it is restricted to those journal which are indexed by PubMed.

   References Top

1.Adhikari P. Accuracy of references in Indian Journal of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery. Indian J Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2010;62:338-41.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Adhikari P, Bhandari S. References in Australasian Medical Journal: Are they accurate? Australasian Medical Journal 2010;3:843-6.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Singh S, Chaudhary R. Accuracy of references cited in articles published in Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology: A pilot study. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 2009;75:488-91.  Back to cited text no. 3
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
4.Uniform requirements for manuscripts submitted to biomedical journals. International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. Ann Intern Med 1988;108:258-65.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Doms CA. A survey of reference accuracy in five national dental journals. J Dent Res 1989;68:442-4.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Roach VJ, Lau TK, Ngan Kee WD. The quality of citations in major international obstetrics and gynecology journals. Am J Obstet Gynecol 1997;117:973-5.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Adhikari P. Accuracy of references in indexed journals of Nepal. Nepal Med Coll J 2009;11:130-2.  Back to cited text no. 7

Correspondence Address:
C Panduranga
Department of Pathology, J.N. Medical College, Belgaum - 590 010, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0377-4929.94903

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