Reference List Errors in Manuscripts Submitted to a Journal for Review for Publication

Onwuegbuzie, Combs, Slate, and Frels (2010) discussed the findings of Onwuegbuzie and Combs (2009), who identified the 60 most common American Psychological Association (APA) errors among 110 sets of authors who submitted manuscripts to Research in the Schools, a nationally refereed journal, over a 6-year period. Of the 60 APA errors that were identified, the most prevalent error was the incorrect use of numbers, which occurred in 57.3% of the manuscripts, which, as concluded by Onwuegbuzie et al. (2010), represents an extremely large effect size. However, it should be noted that Combs et al. examined APA errors committed in the body of the manuscript and did not examine APA errors pertaining to reference lists.

Over the last four decades, several researchers have investigated the accuracy of reference lists in published articles across numerous fields (e.g., business, economics, medicine, social work, psychology, library information science) by comparing each reference contained in the reference list to the original work (e.g., Adhikari, & Bhandari, 2011; Faunce & Job, 2001; Gatten, 2010; Kristof, 1997; O’Connor & Kristof, 2001; Spivey & Wilks, 2004; White, 1987). Most of these researchers have reported unacceptably high rates of errors, despite the fact that, presumably, these articles had undergone a copyediting process. Thus, it is likely that manuscripts submitted to journals that have not yet been professionally copyedited in general and manuscripts that end up being rejected in particular would have even higher error rates in the reference lists. However, to date, no researcher has examined the accuracy of reference lists of manuscripts submitted to journals. Moreover, as yet, no researcher has examined the extent to which reference lists in works—whether published or unpublished—conform to the style guides of the respective journals. This was the goal of the present study. Specifically, the purpose of the study was to determine the frequency and characteristics of APA errors committed in the reference lists of manuscripts initially submitted to a nationally refereed journal, and to explore relationships between reference list errors and selected manuscript variables (e.g., number of authors, editor decision).

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(Author: Anthony J Onwuegbuzie, Eunjin Hwang

Published by Macrothink Institute)