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General medicine
Make quotations great again: a proposal to reduce false-knowledge


The last decades saw remarkable change in the way healthcare professionals generate and consume medical knowledge. Information management technologies have evolved considerably, yet medical publications continue to use a referencing system that has changed very little since the turn of the 20th century. Research suggests that up to one in five referenced claims quotes the original text inaccurately. Many authors, perhaps inadvertently, contribute to this process by citing non-primary data and amplifying the errors of their predecessors. Erroneous claims are propagated, accumulate into false belief systems and generate inaccurate knowledge. Updating the referencing system to provide additional information to support each referenced claim (eg, the location of the referenced statement in the original text and the nature of that text) could, perhaps, address this cycle of inaccuracy. We believe such changes in the referencing system would prompt authors to rigorously verify referenced claims and provide readers with context to inform a critical evaluation of the text. We detail our proposal for changes in the notations used for referencing, as well as in the information provided within reference lists. We also discuss some barriers and solutions to the adoption of our proposal.

  • medical journalism

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