Jamal El Ouahi

Helping researchers. Posts about scientific research & its process. Academia/Government Consulting.

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Jamal El Ouahi

Helping researchers. Posts about scientific research & its process. Academia/Government Consulting.

#21 Avoid these 7 common citation mistakes

Read time: 3 min.

Hey friends,

I want to mention 7 common mistakes researchers make when referencing/citing the scientific literature in their papers.

And here is how you can avoid them.

1: Not referencing at all

If you don’t cite, this can lead to plagiarism.

If you make any statement about a fact, a theory, or someone else’s argument, then you need to make a reference.

To do so, use the original source.

And make sure it’s complete and up-to-date.

2: Inserting citations after writing your paper

Very often, I see researchers waiting for their papers to be done to insert their citations.

That’s one way of doing it.

But this can result in inserting incorrect citations. Or you might miss some of them.

I found best to cite as you write to have accurate and complete references.

3: Not following referencing style

Each journal/conference/institution has its own set of rules which include the right referencing style.

If you ignore this, you might get negative reports from editors/peer-reviewers.

Follow the guidelines about the referencing style. This is an editorial point relatively easy to manage.

4: Not using a reference management tool

I’m not sure how possible it is to manage hundreds/thousands of references without a reference management tool like EndNote or RefWorks.

I still see researchers doing so manually. It’s painful and easy to make mistakes.

Use a tool to manage and format your references automatically. And easily.

You save time and stay sane by doing so!

5: Don’t rely only Google Scholar

While Google Scholar is a free resource which might be helpful for quick searches, we know that it can provide inaccurate or outdated information.

Or non-peer-reviewed content.

Always cross-check with other reliable databases that you can trust, like the Web of Science.

6: Not proofreading the reference list

Once your manuscript is ready for submission, take some time to go through your reference list.

You might find some errors there. Or inconsistencies such as duplicates (preprint vs early access vs published paper)

Peer-reviewers check the reference list to find the papers you cite in your manuscript.

So spend some time to always proofread your references.

The goal here is to be accurate.

7: Not checking for missing or incomplete references

As a peer-reviewer, something I look for is complete references.

The question a peer-reviewer/read would ask when reading your list of references is the following: can I access or at least locate this reference?

Check if you included the DOIs of the references.

This is also a good opportunity to double-check (triple-check?) to ensure all references are complete and correctly formatted as per the journal/conference guidelines.

In summary:

– Make sure every statement you make about a fact, theory, or someone else’s work is correctly cited.

– Insert citations as you write your manuscript to avoid missing or incorrect references.

– Follow the specific referencing style guidelines.

– Use a reference management tool to manage and format your citations.

– Don’t rely only on Google Scholar. Use other trusted databases, like the Web of Science.

– Proofread your reference list. Check for errors or inconsistencies.

– Double-check for missing or incomplete references.

That’s it for this week. Let us know in the comments if you think I missed anything or if you have any other suggestions.

As usual, if anything is unclear or if you need help with your research projects, please contact me and I will reply.

See you next Sunday!


Question of the Week

Do you have any recommendations to add when managing your references?

Let us know in the comments.

My favorite things this week

  1. Great session with a major university in Kuwait. I covered many topics such as literature review and journal selection for publication.

  2. My study on research funding in the Middle East and North Africa is now published in the journal Scientometrics (Open Access). To read it: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-024-04983-8

Quote of the Week

“The Mertonian description of normal science describes citations as the currency of science. Scientists make payments, in the form of citations, to their preceptors. ”
― Eugene Garfield

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