The problem of miscitation in psychological science: Righting the ship. Academic Article uri icon


  • Scholarly citation represents one of the most common and essential elements of psychological science, from publishing research, to writing grant proposals, to presenting research at academic conferences. However, when authors mischaracterize prior research findings in their studies, such instances of miscitation call into question the reliability and credibility of scholarship within psychological science and can harm theory development, evidence-based practices, knowledge growth, and public trust in psychology as a legitimate science. Despite these implications, almost no research has considered the prevalence of miscitation in the psychological literature. In the largest study to date, we compared the accuracy of 3,347 citing claims to original findings across 89 articles in eight of top psychology journals. Results indicated that, although most (81.2%) citations were accurate, roughly 19% of citing claims either failed to include important nuances of results (9.3%) or completely mischaracterized findings from prior research altogether (9.5%). Moreover, the degree of miscitation did not depend on the number of authors on an article or the seniority of the first authors. Overall, results indicate that approximately one in every 10 citations completely mischaracterizes prior research in leading psychology journals. We offer five recommendations to help authors ensure that they cite prior research accurately. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2024 APA, all rights reserved).

published proceedings

  • Am Psychol

author list (cited authors)

  • Cobb, C. L., Crumly, B., Montero-Zamora, P., Schwartz, S. J., & Martnez, C. R.

complete list of authors

  • Cobb, Cory L||Crumly, Brianna||Montero-Zamora, Pablo||Schwartz, Seth J||Martínez, Charles R

publication date

  • February 2024