The Oxford English Dictionary (2018) defines retraction as "the action or fact of revoking or rescinding a decision, decree, etc." A more thorough definition is, "the action of withdrawing a statement, accusation, etc., which is now admitted to be erroneous or unjustified... recantation; an instance of this; a statement of making such a withdrawal."
When a retraction is applied to academic or scholarly publishing, it indicates that an article was withdrawn from the publication in which it appeared after it was published. A retraction is issued through a decision made by the publication's editorial board. Sometimes a retraction can be requested by an author, often due to errors, and the editorial board may agree to grant one.
In a database search, an article may have "RETRACTED" appear before its title in its brief record. A retraction notice may also appear in search results, and its title may begin with "Retraction" followed by the title of the work. Also, the full text of a research article may be labeled, "Retracted." Each of these indicate that an article has been retracted. See the "Identifying Retractions" tab for examples.
Source: Oxford University Press (2018, July). OED online. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/164384
Reasons for retractions. Retractions frequently occur because of research misconduct. Research misconduct is defined by the National Science Foundation (2018) as one or all of the following:
Retractions can also occur because of dishonest or unethical behavior that does not fall under commonly accepted definitions of research misconduct. Such behavior may include:
Retractions do not always indicate that research misconduct or unethical actions occurred. Articles may also be retracted for the following reasons:
Source: National Science Foundation (2021). Research misconduct. https://oig.nsf.gov/investigations/research-misconduct
Identifying retracted articles. When finding articles or publications in a database, a brief record for a work may indicate if it is retracted (Image 1), and the work may have a "retracted" label or watermark on its content (Image 2).
Sometimes the retracted work may include a link to a publication's editorial board's retraction notice, or the retracted work may have the reasons for the retraction. The editorial board may also release a retraction notice to publicize the reasons for the retraction (Image 3) separately from the retracted work.
Searching Databases for Retracted Publications or Articles
In a database or Google Scholar search, try using one of these keywords in a search:
Some databases also have the option to search for retracted, corrected, or republished articles: