My paper was published and later on I found that two references were mistakenly included with the third reference, which is the correct. My phrase looks like this:

I am worried about this (Smith 2001; David 2006; Magnus 2007)

and this is the correct form that it had to be:

I am worried about this (Smith 2001)

so the references "David 2006" and "Magnus 2007" have nothing to do with the cited phrase and they never did that work; and were not meant to be included but maybe it was a problem with reference management software that I used at the time.

I wonder if this will cause a problem to my paper or even plagiarism/retraction. I am really worried about this and any advice is more than welcome.

2 Answers 2


Plagiarism is the use of another author's ideas or words without proper credit. You haven't done that, so there's no need to worry about it. Also, people don't retract papers over trivial editing errors like this.

However, since it's something that might be confusing to a reader, it may be worth asking the journal about printing a correction. Simply get in touch with the editor who originally handled your paper, or if they no longer work with the journal, contact the editor-in-chief. They would typically publish a one-sentence note in some future issue of the journal, stating that the references were included by mistake and should be ignored. Alternatively, they may decide the matter is too trivial to be worth the space to correct it.

Either way, you should post the correction on your web page, and any other place where the paper is publicly available (preprint servers, etc).

This is no big deal and happens all the time. Just get it fixed, move on, and be more careful next time.

  • 13
    +1 for correcting all online versions you have access to. This is often the version people find if they search on Google scholar, so fixing it there goes a long way.
    – Mangara
    Aug 14, 2014 at 17:02
  • Many thanks, what about the authors of the cited papers that I put them by mistake? Do I worry about them?
    – Barry
    Aug 14, 2014 at 17:27
  • 2
    @Barry: No, I can't see that they've been harmed in any significant way. Aug 14, 2014 at 17:50

Obviously it would have been better not to commit such a silly blunder in a published paper, but I don't think it matters much. Such errors, especially when accidental, will inevitably occur, much as typographic errors. A slight embarrassment to you, yes, as any typos or errors in formulas would be, but not truly "actionable" by anyone, so far as I know. So, bottom line, "forget about it".

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