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Scholarly Publishing

What is a Retraction?

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When a retraction is applied to academic or scholarly publishing, it indicates that an article was withdrawn from the publication in which it appeared after it was published.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  Each of these indicate that an article has been retracted.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

More Information

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:

  • Fabrication:  making up data or results rather than having them come from actual research, and recording or reporting them.
  • Falsification:  manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes; changing or omitting data; providing results where the research is not accurately represented.
  • Plagiarism:  using another person's ideas, processes, results, or words without giving attribution. 

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:

  • Forged authorship.
  • Fake peer reviews.
  • Failure to receive institutional review board approval for research on human subjects or animals.
  • Legal issues:  copyright infringement or libelous content.
  • Not obtaining proper permissions to use data.
  • Failure to disclose a competing or potential conflict of interest that may influence interpretations or conclusions. 

Retractions do not always indicate that research misconduct or unethical actions occurred.  Articles may also be retracted for the following reasons:

  • Errors in the research.
  • Problems with its reproducibility.
  • Poor management of data from the research.
  • Duplicate publishing:  being submitted and accepted in more than one publication, or due to publisher error.
  • Author(s) of published article requesting a retraction for any of these 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.

Image 1
Example of a Retraction in Brief List of Results

Image 2
Example of a Retracted Article

Image 3Retraction Notice

How can I identify retractions?


Searching Databases for Retracted Publications or Articles

In a database or Google Scholar search, try using one of these keywords in a search:

  • "Article retracted"
  • "Notice of retraction"
  • "Retracted"
  • "Retracted article"
  • "Retraction"
  • "Retraction of article"

Some databases also have the option to search for retracted, corrected, or republished articles:

  • CINAHL (Advanced Search, Publication Type):
    • Corrected Article
  • PubMed (Article Types Filter): 
    • Corrected and Republished Article
    • Retracted Publication
    • Retraction of Publication
  • Web of Science (Advanced Search, Document Types):
    • Correction
    • Correction, Addition
    • Retracted Publication
    • Retraction

Originality Statement

Originality statement: Content originally appears in Guide to Science Information Sources: Retractions [Research Guide], by K. Padron, https://libguides.fau.edu/science-resources/retractions

Last updated on Oct 7, 2022 3:15 PM