Accuracy of references in burns journals

Burns. 2009 Aug;35(5):677-80. doi: 10.1016/j.burns.2008.11.014. Epub 2009 Mar 20.


Aims: To study the incidence and risk factors for citation and quotation errors in two major burns surgery journals.

Methods: 120 references were randomly selected from original articles published in the following two journals - January to December 2006 issues of Burns and Journal of Burn Care & Research. For each reference, the ease of retrieval on PubMed and the presence of citation errors were noted. Two independent observers analysed each reference for quotation errors. The characteristics of the root article, that is, type of study, author numbers, number of references and article word count were noted.

Results: Of the 120 selected references, 117 referred to articles from indexed medical journals published in English. Among these, 4 articles could not be retrieved due to fatal citation errors (3.3%). A further 12 citation errors were noted giving a total citation error rate of 13.3% (95% CI: 6.74-19.93%). Of the 117 references analysed, the quotation error rate was 13.7% (95% CI: 8.6-19.5%) half of which were major errors. There was no significant association between the combined error rate per article and the journal (Kruskal-Wallis test; p=0.861, type of study (Kruskal-Wallis test; p=0.717), author numbers (Spearman's rho=0.197, p=0.423), article length (Spearman's rho=0.118, p=0.705) or references per article (Spearman's rho=0.229, p=0.189).

Conclusion: Significant numbers of citation and quotation errors still appear in current burns literature. Incorrect spelling of author names and partial omissions of article titles were the two most common errors. No observable underlying factors were identified in this study. The present results serve as a reminder to authors, editors and peer reviewers for more care of citation accuracy when striving for their common goal of scientific excellence.

MeSH terms

  • Bibliographies as Topic
  • Bibliometrics*
  • Burns*
  • Documentation / standards
  • Humans
  • Periodicals as Topic / standards*
  • Publishing / standards*