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Exploring the Accuracy of Cited References


The current featured ANS article is titled “Exploring the Accuracy of Cited References in a Selected Data Set of Nursing Journal Articles” authored by Leslie H. Nicoll, PhD, MBA, RN, FAAN; Marilyn H. Oermann, PhD, RN, ANEF, FAAN; Heather Carter-Templeton, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN; Jordan Wrigley, MSLS, MA; and Jacqueline K. Owens, PhD, RN, CNE. Head on over to the ANS website and download this article while it is featured and share your comments here. Dr. Nicoll shared this message about this project:

Leslie H. Nicoll

I heard Karin Kirchhoff speak at a conference almost 40 years ago on the topic of accuracy of reference in nursing journals. This topic has been on my mind ever since and I have always used her original research as a benchmark for accuracy. Our study shows that accuracy has improved dramatically over the past four decades. We found low error rates overall and only 1.3% of references (8 out of 666) could not be retrieved at all. I attribute much of this change to electronic resources for searching, retrieval, and reference management, at both the local and global level. This is a very positive finding.

One thing that struck me, as I sorted through and carefully looked at actual citations, is how little the format has changed, even though the type and location of sources has changed dramatically. APA style was first introduced in 1929 and at that time they asked for the author name(s), article title, journal title, year, volume, and page numbers. At that time, those guidelines probably sufficed for the vast majority of citations, except for maybe the occasional dissertation or reference to a legal citation. Now, almost 100 years later we are basically using the same format, with the addition of the DOI. However, how and where we retrieve information is vastly different. Print journals are no longer the norm; in fact, it is probably safe to say that journal articles are no longer the primary source for information. They share the stage with reports, white papers, policy briefs, legislative documents, blogs, dissertations, fugitive literature and more. Does this 100 year old APA format really work to provide accurate and concise information to retrieve a citation anymore? Maybe it is time to rethink what exactly needs to be included in a citation and make it as streamlined and versatile as possible. Scholars, authors, and students need to be able to move beyond styling references as part of their authorial activity. It’s tedious and time consuming and at this point, provides very little added value. Time to call for a reference citation revolution!

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