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Guide to Correcting Incomplete or Incorrect Citations


If you know an author name and the subject of a journal article, you can use any appropriate article database. This guide is meant to provide pointers for when you are dealing with an incomplete citation or with a citation that you suspect is incorrect. If you have only partial information on a given citation, or do not know exactly where a particular paper comes from, try " Single Citation Matcher" in PubMed or " Cited Reference Search" inWeb of Science.

Single Citation Matcher (PubMed)

If you have any of the following information shown in the table below, you may be able to find the lost citation using this program.

Searchable Citation Information

  • Journal Title
  • Date of Publication
  • Volume, Issue, or First Page Number
  • Author Name- surname and initials

Restrictions to a Citation Matcher Search

  • The citation needs to be included in MEDLINE.
  • The citation must be to a journal publication.
  • The publication date must be from 1966 or later.







Example: The only citation information you have is: v.72(6):512. You do not know what journal this article was from. Enter this information into the 'Single Citation Matcher' boxes. PubMed will retrieve the full citations (authors, article titles, and journal names) of least 5 possible papers:

"Just-in-time" clinical information.
Acad Med. 1997 Jun;72(6):512-7.
PMID: 9200584; UI: 97344057
Lack of colonization of 1 day old chicks by viable, non-culturable Campylobacter jejuni.
J Appl Bacteriol. 1992 Jun;72(6):512-6.
PMID: 1644708; UI: 92355443
Leiomyosarcoma of the vena cava.
J Belge Radiol. 1989 Dec;72(6):512-3. No abstract available.
PMID: 2621205; UI: 90153831
Clinical and socio-cultural parameters in Nigerian psychiatric patients. A prospective study.
Acta Psychiatr Scand. 1985 Dec;72(6):512-21.
PMID: 4083057; UI: 86099853
[Quantitative evaluation of T and B lymphocytes in the peripheral blood of patients with psoriasis].
Przegl Dermatol. 1985 Nov-Dec;72(6):512-6. Polish. No abstract available.
PMID: 3879540; UI: 86178508

Cited Reference Search (Web of Science)

The ISI Science Citation Index can be helpful, particularly when a citation is suspected to be incorrect (in volume or page number), when you are unsure whether the citation is to a journal article, or when the citation is older (i.e. pre-dating 1970). When you connect to the Web of Science, choose the 'Cited Reference Search' option. When using this database for citation verification, keep the following facts in mind:

Searchable Citation Information

  • Author - surname and initials
  • Journal Title
  • Date of Publication - possible year(s)

Restrictions to a Cited Reference Search

  • The reference must have been cited in a journal that is indexed by ISI.
  • The citation is not limited to publication type.
  • The date of the citing journal must be from 1994 or later.






Example: You have a citation as follows: Watson CJ. (1960). New Eng J Med. 253:1205. You now this citation to be incorrect, however, since a different article is found on page 1205 of NEJM volume 253. What you do not know is whether it is the page number, volume number, or year that has been cited incorrectly--it is even possible that the incorrect journal title was cited for this article. Using the Web of Science's 'Cited Reference' search option will facilitate the detective work required to locate the correct citation. Two examples of appropriate searches are:

    Cited Author: WATSON CJ
    Cited Work: NEW ENGL J MED  [ 1]


    Cited Author: WATSON CJ
    Cited Year: 1959 OR 1960 OR 1961


The second search will retrieve the following table of citations:


Cited Author

Cited Work   





41 WATSON CJ JAMA-J AM MED ASSOC 175 1087 1961
118 WATSON CJ NEW ENGL J MED 263 1205 1960
1 WATSON CJ NEW ENGL J MED 253 1205 1960


This search finds that there is only one article that made reference to this article using your original citation. On the other hand, over 100 articles have cited: Watson CJ. (1960). New Eng J Med. 2 63:1205. This is more than likely to be the correct bibliographic citation you were seeking.



  1. You can type in the first 20 letters of the title, but you are likely to get better results using the ISI abbreviation of the journal name. To find the abbreviation used click on 'link' placed above the 'cited work' search box. After locating the journal in the alphabetical list, copy the ISI abbreviation onto the computer clipboard. Now use the 'back' button to return to the search screen, paste the abbreviation into the search box, and proceed with your search.


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