go backGo Back
sub-category Publication Ethics

Manuscript Withdrawal versus Article Retraction and Self-Retraction

  • Charlesworth Author Services

Manuscript Withdrawal versus
Article Retraction and Self-Retraction

As a researcher, you no doubt wish to maximise your publications and their impact. Therefore, you need to be careful of manuscript withdrawals and article retractions. Withdrawals and/or retractions can negatively impact your reputation as a researcher, which is why it is important to avoid them and keep your publication pipeline healthy and productive.

Manuscript withdrawal explained

Withdrawal is the removal of a manuscript from consideration by a journal upon request by the authors themselves before the article is published. There are many reasons why articles are withdrawn, as you can read here: Reasons for withdrawing an academic article. Authors usually request a withdrawal when they realise that they have made some serious mistakes that affect the conclusions of their study.

Article retraction explained

A retraction is the removal of an article from the scientific record after the article is published. A retraction is necessary when the validity of research findings is compromised owing to scientific misconduct or error. When such problems are pointed out to journal editors, they launch an investigation, following which the article in question may or may not be retracted. [If interested, read more here: How Journals identify and respond to allegations of Scientific Misconduct of Authors]

Manuscript withdrawal vs. article retraction

A manuscript withdrawal differs from an article retraction in several respects.

a. Timing

The fundamental difference between withdrawal and retraction is the ‘when’. A withdrawal is initiated before the article is published (before or after peer review, during peer review or just before publication). Occasionally, articles ‘in press’ or published ‘ahead of print’ may also be withdrawn. A retraction, on the other hand, is done only after the article has been published. 

b. Initiators

The second difference is the ‘who’. A withdrawal is initiated by the author(s) of the manuscript whereas a retraction is initiated by journal editors upon recognising glaring errors or fraud or being tipped off by vigilant readers. A retraction may also be requested by the authors themselves, in which case it is known as a self-retraction (discussed later in this article).

c. Visibility

The third difference is visibility. Retracted papers and retraction notices are visible to the scientific community. They need to be flagged and not removed altogether as they are part of the publication record, and other researchers must know not to refer to (cite) them. 

Handling manuscript withdrawals

A withdrawn manuscript is removed from the publisher’s database altogether, and readers might not be aware of withdrawn papers or the withdrawal history of a published paper. In the case of articles posted online but not officially published or peer reviewed, the text is usually removed and replaced with a notification of withdrawal. 

Handling article retractions

Different journals handle retractions differently. Here are some standard practices.

  • A retraction note appears in a subsequent issue of the journal. 
  • In the electronic version, a link is added to the original article.
  • A retraction note precedes the online article.
  • A ‘retraction’ watermark appears on each page of the PDF version of the article.
  • The HTML (online) version of the original/retracted document is removed.

Manuscript withdrawal vs. self-retraction

A self-retraction is a retraction initiated by the authors themselves upon noticing major errors in their published manuscript (that is, when it is too late to withdraw it because it has already been published). So, both self-retraction and withdrawal are done by the authors themselves. Thus, the difference between the two lies in the ‘when’ and not in the ‘who’. Learn more about self-retraction here: Self-retraction and how it can impact your research career

End note

It is not taboo to have a paper withdrawn or retracted. These are mechanisms that are part of the self-correcting nature of research. Even so, to avoid having a record of withdrawal or retraction forming part of your publication history, it is highly recommended that you be attentive and careful to avoid situations that could lead to either of these publication outcomes.


Maximise your publication success with Charlesworth Author Services.

Charlesworth Author Services, a trusted brand supporting the world’s leading academic publishers, institutions and authors since 1928.

To know more about our services, visit: Our Services

Share with your colleagues

cwg logo

Scientific Editing Services