How to avoid using retracted articles

Published Sep. 05, 2023
Updated Sep. 11, 2023

Knowledge changes. It’s one of the many truths of research. Sometimes what we know is updated as new information becomes available. Other times, sadly, we discover something was never the truth.

Various reasons result in retractions. Research with faked or manipulated data may be called out. Researchers who did not disclose conflicts of interest, such as sponsorship from pharmaceutical companies with a bias towards their products' marketability, can be detrimental to public health. Many article retractions occur without making the news so when doing your own research it’s important you know when an article has been retracted to avoid wasted effort or your own work being influenced by a retracted work.

Most poor articles are rejected before publication, with peer review successfully weeding out bad information. But how do you know when articles get published and later retracted? 

Welcome to Retraction Watch - a website that tracks retracted articles. If something you have used before has disappeared, checking Retraction Watch may explain why the article is missing. You can use the Retraction Watch Database to search for retractions. You can search by title, author, journal, DOI and other criteria to help specify your results.

Instead of proactively checking for yourself, you can also use your citation manager. Zotero has a built-in integration with Retraction Watch that alerts you when an article you are adding has been retracted. Even if citations have resided in your Zotero database for months or years, Zotero will flag the paper and let you know if it is retracted. The integration is also designed to respect your privacy, checking for retracted items without sharing the contents of your library.

Screenshot of Zotero retraction warning
A Zotero retraction warning

Don’t get caught using retracted articles! For help setting up your citation management system, check out our Zotero library guide or contact your ASU Library liaison librarian

Janice Hermer, Health Sciences Liaison Librarian

Janice Hermer
Janice Hermer, Health Sciences Liaison Librarian