I have recently started working on a thesis, and my supervisor told me to make sure I didn't include papers from predatory or unreliable sources.

Typically, i perform my searches on Web of science or Scholar and add everything to Zotero.

I was wondering if there was a way, ideally something like an API that i could check my DOI against to ensure an article wasn't retracted or the journal it came from isn't listed as predatory?

I found lists of journals online, like beall's list (link) or doaj.org (link), but it's now raising a second problem; some articles have missing metadata and i can't simply check the name of their journals. Is there another way, or do i need to fix my library first ?


  • 3
    I don't understand the sentence "some articles have missing metadata and i can't simply check the name of their journals". If you want to cite an article you have to find out the journal anyway. Apr 3 at 21:05
  • @JochenGlueck Well, maybe the zotero connector has a problem or something, but i always have DOI + Author(s) + Year in the article's metadata field, but sometimes the publisher and/or journal are missing. I need to track them back from the url i saved them from to find where they were published
    – Orsu
    Apr 3 at 21:39

2 Answers 2


There is no foolproof way of checking whether the findings of an article are reliable. The best way is to be an expert and read it carefully as well as reproducing the findings, but even that is subject to not questioning assumptions that may be mistaken.

I don't know of a programmatic way of checking whether a journal is predatory, but please read How do I identify predatory and low quality journals? With Beall's List gone, how can I tell if a journal is spam? for heuristics. As for retractions, the most comprehensive database is that run by Retraction Watch, available here. Last year, it was integrated into Crossref's database and as I understand it, you should be able to use their API to query a DOI and get metadata information that flags whether the article has an associated Retraction Watch database record.

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    Thanks! I'll read those. For the retracted articles, i've looked around a bit more, and zotero actually already check this, using the retraction watch you provided. If you add a retracted article (that's in the db) a big red banner appears
    – Orsu
    Apr 3 at 18:51

Don't check the journal/publisher, check the author(s)

Not everything published in a predatory journal is unreliable, just like not everything published in reputable journals is reliable. Most papers will have a senior author at well-known institutions that is easily Googled for, and their name on the paper is a strong sign that the paper is reliable.

This will take a significant amount of effort, but because the only sure way is to become an expert yourself, so this is still the next-best option.

  • However the converse is not necessarily true: plenty of good work is done by people based at institutions that are not world-famous.
    – avid
    Apr 5 at 7:41
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    @avid I'm using "well-known institutions" here to mean institutions that are easily Googled for (a much lower bar than world-famous).
    – Allure
    Apr 5 at 7:45

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