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Indian Journal of Surgery
Medknow Publications on behalf of Association of Surgeons of India
ISSN: 0972-2068
Vol. 65, Num. 5, 2003, pp. 453

Indian Journal of Surgery, Vol. 65, No. 5, Sept-Oct, 2003, pp. 453

Letter to Editor

Accuracy of references towards improving the quality of references (and the journal)

B. D. Pujari

Shree Hospital, Extension Area, Miraj 416410. E-mail:

Paper Received: September 2003. Paper Accepted: September 2003. Source of Support: Nil.

Code Number: is03100


Dr. Sahu1 needs to be congratulated for highlighting better means of confirming accuracy of references and the less significant concept of major and minor errors and also for adding some very good suggestions to the deserving article by Mohta and Mohta.2 Basically, British Standards Institution defines a reference as "A set of data describing a document or part of a document sufficiently precise and detailed to identify it and to enable it to be located".3 With the availability of new informatics, the retrieval has become easy. References should not be confused with bibliography which is nonspecific and includes all the literature the author has consulted pertaining to the subject but not necessarily incorporated in the text. Since all of us are pledged to improve the quality of our national surgical journal, I take this opportunity to express some more views on this aspect of paper writing.

It is stated that number of references cited do not correlate with error rate. Logic dictates that it is likely to be so. There are contradictory observations on this point4,5 and there is no well controlled study available so far. Numbers of articles are found listing unnecessary references, many times duplicating the statement and thereby increasing the error rate. Probably there is a wrong impression that a long list of references gives a scholarly look to the article. It is advisable to optimise the references using most recent once to highlight a single point. A reference from recently published textbook or a well-evaluated review article is more convincing than a cluster of contradictory references unless the author needs them to highlight the point. The error rate probably depends on vigilance, sincerity and integrity of the author.

Some interesting observations about references in the original article by Mohta and Mohta are 9 of the 11 references from indexed Journals are prior to 1998 where number of recent references are available and 5 of 11 references are from anaesthesia journals. This is probably due to non-availability of recent journals in library and easy access to anesthesia journals by one of the authors. This again highlights the fact that references in Indian journals are usually old and from low impact journals.6

Finally, editors and reviewers of most of the journals are not full-time and professional members. There are no specific criteria for selection.7-9 Contesting elections for Editorial Board of IJS by depositing Rs 1000/- may not appeal to some of the senior and experienced members. Instead it will be appropriate to set other criteria like age preferably above 45 years, at least ten publications in journals out of which 5 to be in indexed journals and previous experience of editing if any. ASI along with the Editorial Board can organise symposia/workshops on "Medical Writing" for its members. Editors can organise programs on "Basics of Editing" for the Editorial Board Members and Reviewers during ASICON meetings.

The Editors and the Members of Editorial Board are trying hard to improve the quality of IJS and it is the duty of contributors to submit their scholarly articles exhibiting writing skills and applying stringent criteria. Such comments should not be looked upon as offensive to the authors or editors.10 but an attempt to bring about some short comings in our articles as we have pledged to improve the total quality of our journal.

B. D. Pujari

Shree Hospital, Extension Area, Miraj 416410.



  1. Sahu DK. Accuracy of references in Indian Journal of Surgery: Comments (Letter) Indian J Surg 2003;65:290-1.
  2. Mohta A, Mohta M. Accuracy of references in Indian Journal of Surgery Indian J Surg 2003;65:156- 8.
  3. British Standards Institution. Recommendations for citing and referencing published material. London: BSI 1990.
  4. Fenton JE, Brazier H, De Souza A, Hughes JP, MoShane DP. The accuracy of citation and quotation in otolaryngology / head and neck surgery journals. Clin Otolaryngol 2000;25:40-4.
  5. Hansen ME, McIntire DD. Reference citations in radiology: accuracy and appropriateness of use in two major journals. Am J Roentgenol 1994;163:719-23.
  6. Kapoor VK, Aggarwal R. A comparison of citations in the Indian Journal of Gastroenterology with other journals. Indian J Gastroenterol 1993;Suppl 1:s12-6.
  7. Garrow J, Butterfield M, Marshal J, Williamson A. The Reported training and experience of editors in chief of specialist clinical medical journals. JAMA 1998;280:286-7.
  8. Rayes H, Kauffmann R, Andresen M. Improving the editing of Medical Journals and the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) Rev Med Chil 1997;125:1289-91. (Abstract MEDLINE)
  9. Frank E. Editors' request of peer reviewers: a study and proposal Prev Med 1996;25:102-4.
  10. Horton R. Postpublication criticism and the shaping of clinical knowledge. JAMA 2002;287:2843-7.

© 2003 Indian Journal of Surgery. Also available online at

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