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Avoiding plagiarism, self-plagiarism, and other questionable writing practices: A guide to ethical writing

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ETHICALLY QUESTIONABLE CITATION PRACTICES


References provide a crucial service in scholarly and scientific writing, for they inform the reader as to the source of ideas, arguments, and data from which the main thesis of a paper is derived. A reference citation also allows the reader to explore in more detail a given line of thinking or evidence. For these reasons, it is important that authors strive for accuracy when listing references in manuscripts. Yet, it appears that authors do not often assign the proper level of importance to reference sections. In fact, the available evidence suggests that a disproportionate number of errors occur in reference sections even in some of the most prestigious biomedical journals (Siebers and Holt, 2000).

Another area of concern is the failure to cite the author who first reports the phenomenon being studied. Apparently, some authors instead cite later studies that better substantiate the original observation. However, as Zigmond and Fischer (2002) note, failure to cite the original report denies the individual who made the initial discovery his/her due credit.

GUIDELINE 14: Authors are strongly urged to double-check their citations. Specifically, authors should always ensure that each reference notation appearing in the body of the manuscript corresponds to the correct citation listed in the reference section and vice versa and that each source listed in the reference section has been cited at some point in the manuscript. In addition, authors should also ensure that all elements of a citation (e.g., spelling of authors’ names, volume number of journal, pagination) are derived directly from the original paper, rather than from a citation that appears on a secondary source. Finally, authors should ensure that credit is given to those authors who first reported the phenomenon being studied.


 
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