How to avoid article retraction

We will look at some of the reasons for article retractions and provide useful resources for further information.

Causes of retractions

Firstly, it is important to recognize why articles are retracted in the first place. Unfortunately, there are dishonest researchers who are willing to falsify data and bypass codes of ethics in order to achieve recognition for the results they want. Most likely you are not one of these researchers! Indeed, although relatively rare, retractions can occur for honest, and often simple mistakes, which can make the publication process seem daunting. With a good awareness of the best codes of practice, however, it need not be that way.

How you can prevent retractions

There are some steps during the research and write-up process that can be taken to prevent accidental misconduct. 

1. Follow the relevant ethics guidelines

It is important to familiarize yourself with ethical guidelines issued by the recognized body in your field of expertise. Studies deemed unethical because of the treatment of animals or issues of privacy surrounding studies on people, to take just two examples, may be retracted.

2. Clearly state any conflicts of interest

Transparency is just as important for authors as it is for publishers and journals; readers must have all the information available to them to evaluate the limitations of the study.

3. Take all measures to avoid plagiarism

When writing up your research, be sure reference correctly and comprehensively. Even when using or referring to material written or produced by yourself, the work must be correctly referenced; self-plagiarism is a form of plagiarism and may lead to article retraction or at least redundancy. For more information on plagiarism, please see our article on the subject: 

4. Author transparency

All authors and their affiliations must be clearly and correctly indicated.

5. Select a journal wisely

Finally, it is important to consider carefully which journal to submit your paper to. A reliable and reputed journal will have a rigorous editorial or review process in order to identify any experimental or calculation errors, thus minimizing the risk of your article being retracted further down the line.


How publication procedures can increase the risk of article retraction

According to guidelines drawn up by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA), and the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME), articles can be retracted because of unreliable data or publication problems.  “Predatory” or otherwise unreliable journals may follow practices which compromise the material published within it, or may allow for honest mistakes to go unnoticed until after publication. 

Together, the four organizations above have compiled a set of publishing guidelines for open access publications. They could be used as a guide for selecting a reliable journal: 

1. Journal and publisher staff transparency: Staff details should be available on the company website.

2. Editorial staff and referees: Again, the names and affiliations of editorial staff should be available. Referees should be experts in their field so that they can give provide useful feedback on manuscripts.

3. Procedures and protocol: The peer review process must be clearly indicated on the journal website, along with their publication schedule.

4. Income and publishing fees: All publication costs must be stated clearly at the beginning of the process.

5. Indexing and marketing: Finally, journals and publishers must be open about where the journal is indexed, its impact factor, and must not lock its proofs to hinder copyright checks and prevent scanning by search engines.

For the latest news on article retraction, please visit For more information about journal selection, please read our article on Think. Check. Submit



As it can be seen, transparency is vital when writing and publishing research. If in any doubt, consult the following resources, and contact your institution or publisher for more information. Alternatively, please feel free to contact us at Charlesworth Author Services.


Useful resources

• COPE publishing guidelines

• Beall’s criteria: please note that these criteria are no longer being updated

• COPE retraction guidelines and procedures

• Retraction Watch: a useful resource for finding out recently retracted articles 


More information

Any questions? Charlesworth Author Services can advise you on your editing needs. Please contact us at or 


Share with your colleagues

Related articles

Avoiding Plagiarism in Academic Papers

What is Self-Plagiarism?

What is article retraction in academic publishing?

Learn more

Authorship of academic papers

The tricky issue of authorships I: Tips and pitfalls for Early Career Researchers

Authorship, and the role of the ‘corresponding author’

How to Avoid Article Retraction