Pharmacopsychiatry 2020; 53(06): 247-255
DOI: 10.1055/a-1167-3567
Original Paper

Importance, Errors, and Patterns of Quotations to Psychiatric Original Articles

Christopher Baethge
1  Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Cologne Medical School, Cologne, Germany
2  Deutsches Ärzteblatt & Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, Cologne, Germany
› Author Affiliations
Funding: This study has not been externally funded.


Introduction A substantial rate of quotation errors has been reported in medical journal publications: about 25% of all quotations are wrong. It is, however, entirely unclear how important quotation errors are for the message of quoting articles.

Methods This is a case study in form of a retrospective quotation analysis of a cohort of 72 psychiatric original articles (index articles) from 5 German-language general psychiatric journals. Main outcomes were importance and accuracy of quotations from the 2 calendar years following the publication of index articles.

Results Fifty-one index articles were quoted 235 times in 109 quoting articles. Almost all quotations were of medium (76% [95% CI: 70%; 81%]) or high (20% [15%, 25%]) importance for the message of the quoting paper. Regarding quotation accuracy, 44 quotations (19% [14%; 24%]) were rated as minor, and 51 (22% [17%; 27%]) as major errors. In multivariable analyses, no statistically significant and practically relevant factors associated with quotation inaccuracy emerged, such as self-quotation, impact factor of the quoting journal, or importance. Among quoting articles, 7 (6% [3%; 13%]) showed a pattern of predominantly quoting index articles from the time span relevant to the calculation of the impact factor.

Discussion Quotations are important for the message of the quoting paper. Therefore, quotation errors may be detrimental to scientific reasoning and may undermine public trust in medical science. The present investigation is a case study, and its results are exploratory. While it is plausible that the findings translate into other environments, independent replication is needed.

Supplementary Material

Publication History

Received: 17 January 2020
Received: 13 April 2020

Accepted: 23 April 2020

Publication Date:
02 June 2020 (online)

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