I handed in my masters dissertation a few weeks ago and I’ve now discovered a referencing mistake in my literature review. A medical publication I’d been citing has had a number of updates over the years and instead of citing the earlier year (2009) I’ve cited 2018. I could kick myself. I’m very anxious about this and not sure if I should just wait it out or speak to my advisor? I had mentioned to him that I couldn’t stop re reading it (before I realised about the year thing and he told me stop it and I wish I had listened. I realise that nothing can be done to rectify it and I’m willing to accept I’ll lose marks if found but I’m worried something more serious will happen. I’m so mortified and hoped to apply for a PhD next year ( I was on track for a first) I honestly can’t believe I’ve made such a careless mistake. Marks are due out at the end of Nov.

  • If you are feeling very anxious you should discuss that with a mental health professional. Oct 27, 2020 at 2:45
  • What's your question?
    – Allure
    Oct 27, 2020 at 3:14
  • So the only issue is that the year of publication for a single reference is incorrect?
    – Maeher
    Oct 27, 2020 at 6:29
  • No I’ve used the source a few times and cited them all as 2018.
    – So20
    Oct 27, 2020 at 6:37
  • It’s referenced in the ref list as 2018 so I guess the only way it will be flagged at this stage is if they check the quotes or if the marker is very familiar with the guidelines and realises the mistake. I’m more concerned it will be picked up later if someone chooses to read it from the share folder in the library - not that I think it would be widely read but my advisor does circulate previous dissertations so that students can get an idea of structure etc.
    – So20
    Oct 27, 2020 at 7:15

2 Answers 2


I don't have enough reputation to comment but we are all human and we make mistakes, you could ask your advisor about submitting an erratum but it is generally done only for peer-reviewed publications.

Personally, I wouldn't worry too much about a typo in my citations. Unless the entire conclusions of a section really depended on the results from this particular reference.

  • Thanks, it’s part of my literature review so not directly related to my thoughts/conclusions.
    – So20
    Oct 27, 2020 at 7:20

Your school may have a procedure for submitting updates/corrections to your dissertation. This will probably require contacting the committee who reviewed the original work, and also the library that archives copies of the dissertation.

This citation error, however, is pretty minor, and while you reference a newer copy instead of the old, most researchers may figure it out from context.

  • Thank you, although I don’t think this happens at masters level at my university. I think if it’s not picked up at marking I will suggest to my advisor that I spotted a mistake and can I put an update on it?
    – So20
    Oct 27, 2020 at 7:18

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