Citation and quotation errors are common in medical journals. We assessed the prevalence of those errors in gross anatomy journals, where articles often cite old anatomical studies. The study included 199 randomly selected references from articles published in the first 2001 issue of three major gross anatomy journals: Annals of Anatomy, Clinical Anatomy, and Surgical and Radiologic Anatomy. The selected references were checked for accuracy against the original articles. Citation errors were classified as major, intermediate, and minor. Quotation errors were classified as major and minor. Citations errors were found in 27% (54/199) of the references and 38% of them were major errors. Errors occurred in 19% (52/272) of quotations and nearly all (94%) were major. Furthermore, 24% of the quotations were indirect references to a secondary, instead of original, source. There was no statistically significant difference in the rates of citation or quotation errors between the references published before or after the introduction of MEDLINE (chi2 test, P > 0.05) in 1963, and the prevalence of these errors in gross anatomy journals was similar to that found in other medical fields. A high proportion of major citation errors, a very high proportion of major quotation errors, and the substantial number of indirect quotations call for serious editorial action in anatomy journals.
Copyright 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.