Improving the Reliability of Literature Reviews: Detection of Retracted Articles through Academic Search Engines [open access article]

Clic to access


Nowadays, a multitude of scientific publications on health science are being developed that require correct bibliographic search in order to avoid the use and inclusion of retracted literature in them. The use of these articles could directly affect the consistency of the scientific studies and could affect clinical practice. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the capacity of the main scientific literature search engines, both general (Gooogle Scholar) and scientific (PubMed, EMBASE, SCOPUS, and Web of Science), used in health sciences in order to check their ability to detect and warn users of retracted articles in the searches carried out. The sample of retracted articles was obtained from RetractionWatch.

The results showed that although Google Scholar was the search engine with the highest capacity to retrieve selected articles, it was the least effective, compared with scientific search engines, at providing information on the retraction of articles. The use of different scientific search engines to retrieve as many scientific articles as possible, as well as never using only a generic search engine, is highly recommended. This will reduce the possibility of including retracted articles and will avoid affecting the reliability of the scientific studies carried out. > View Full-Text <


research methodology; biomedical publishing; publication ethics; scientific misconduct; retraction of publication

Download + useful links


Pastor-Ramón, Elena, Ivan Herrera-Peco, Oskia Agirre, María García-Puente, and José M. Morán. 2022. «Improving the Reliability of Literature Reviews: Detection of Retracted Articles through Academic Search Engines» European Journal of Investigation in Health, Psychology and Education 12, no. 5: 458-464.

Cited references

  1. Ferragut, J.; Pinto, N.; Amorim, A.; Picornell, A. Improving publication quality and the importance of Post Publication Peer Review: The illustrating example of X chromosome analysis and calculation of forensic parameters. Forensic Sci. Int. Genet. 201938, e5–e7. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  2. Ali, P.A.; Watson, R. Peer review and the publication process. Nurs. Open 20163, 193–202. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  3. Herrera-Peco, I.; Santillán-García, A.; Morán, J.; Goodman-Casanova, J.; Cuesta-Lozano, D. The Evidence-Based Practice Silent Enemy: Retracted Articles and Their Use in Systematic Reviews. Healthcare 20208, 465. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  4. Nogueira, T.E.; Gonçalves, A.S.; Leles, C.R.; Batista, A.C.; Costa, L.R. A survey of retracted articles in dentistry. BMC Res. Notes 201710, 253. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  5. Moylan, E.C.; Kowalczuk, M.K. Why articles are retracted: A retrospective cross-sectional study of retraction notices at BioMed Central. BMJ Open 20166, e012047. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  6. Dal-Ré, R.; Ayuso, C. For how long and with what relevance do genetics articles retracted due to research misconduct remain active in the scientific literature. Account. Res. 202028, 280–296. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  7. Serghiou, S.; Marton, R.M.; Ioannidis, J.P.A. Media and social media attention to retracted articles according to Altmetric. PLoS ONE 202116, e0248625. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  8. Nair, S.; Yean, C.; Yoo, J.; Leff, J.; Delphin, E.; Adams, D.C. Reasons for article retraction in anesthesiology: A comprehensive analysis. Can. J. Anaesth. 201967, 57–63. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  9. The Retraction Watch Database [Internet]. New York: The Center for Scientific Integrity. 2018. Available online: (accessed on 26 December 2021).
  10. Rapani, A.; Lombardi, T.; Berton, F.; Del Lupo, V.; Di Lenarda, R.; Stacchi, C. Retracted publications and their citation in dental literature: A systematic review. Clin. Exp. Dent. Res. 20206, 383–390. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  11. Theis-Mahon, N.R.; Bakker, C.J. The continued citation of retracted publications in dentistry. J. Med. Libr. Assoc. 2020108, 389–397. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  12. Frampton, G.; Woods, L.; Scott, D.A. Inconsistent and incomplete retraction of published research: A cross-sectional study on COVID-19 retractions and recommendations to mitigate risks for research, policy and practice. PLoS ONE 202116, e0258935. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  13. Scite: Evaluate the Veracity of Scientific Work. Available online: (accessed on 3 April 2021).
  14. Morán, J.M.; Santillán-García, A.; Herrera-Peco, I. SCRUTATIOm: How to detect retracted literature included in systematics reviews and metaanalysis using SCOPUS© and ZOTERO©. Gac. Sanit. 202036, 64–66. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  15. Couzin, J.; Unger, K. Cleaning up the Paper Trail. Science 2006312, 38–43. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  16. Budd, J.M.; Sievert, M.; Schultz, T.R.; Scoville, C. Effects of article retraction on citation and practice in medicine. Bull. Med. Libr. Assoc. 199987, 437–443. [Google Scholar] [PubMed]
  17. Bar-Ilan, J.; Halevi, G. Temporal characteristics of retracted articles. Scientometrics 2018116, 1771–1783. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  18. Neale, A.V.; Northrup, J.; Dailey, R.; Marks, E.; Abrams, J. Correction and use of biomedical literature affected by scientific misconduct. Sci. Eng. Ethics 200713, 5–24. [Google Scholar]
  19. Sox, H.C.; Rennie, D. Research Misconduct, Retraction, and Cleansing the Medical Literature: Lessons from the Poehlman Case. Ann. Intern. Med. 2006144, 609–613. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  20. Giustini, D.; Boulos, M.N.K. Google Scholar is not enough to be used alone for systematic reviews. Online J. Public Health Inform. 20135, 214. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  21. Gusenbauer, M.; Haddaway, N.R. Which academic search systems are suitable for systematic reviews or meta-analyses? Evaluating retrieval qualities of Google Scholar, PubMed, and 26 other resources. Res. Synth. Methods 201911, 181–217. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  22. Chapman, D. Health-related databases. J. Can. Acad. Child. Adolesc. Psychiatry 200918, 148–149. [Google Scholar]
  23. Gehanno, J.-F.; Rollin, L.; Darmoni, S. Is the coverage of google scholar enough to be used alone for systematic reviews. BMC Med. Inform. Decis. Mak. 201313, 7. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  24. Audisio, K.; Robinson, N.B.; Soletti, G.J.; Cancelli, G.; Dimagli, A.; Spadaccio, C.; Olaria, R.P.; Chadow, D.; Rahouma, M.; Demetres, M.; et al. A survey of retractions in the cardiovascular literature. Int. J. Cardiol. 2021349, 109–114. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  25. Bucci, E.M. On zombie papers. Cell Death Dis. 201910, 189. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  26. King, E.G.; Oransky, I.; Sachs, T.E.; Farber, A.; Flynn, D.; Abritis, A.; Kalish, J.A.; Siracuse, J.J. Analysis of retracted articles in the surgical literature. Am. J. Surg. 2018216, 851–855. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  27. García-Puente, M.; Pastor-Ramon, E.; Agirre, O.; Moran, J.M.; Herrera-Peco, I. The use of Sci-Hub in systematic reviews of the scholarly literature. Clin. Implant Dent. Relat. Res. 201921, 816. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  28. Orduña Malea, E.; Martín-Martín, A.; Delgado-López-Cózar, E. Google Scholar as a source for scholarly evaluation: A bibliographic review of database errors. Rev. Esp. Doc. Cient. 201740, 1–33. [Google Scholar]
  29. García-Puente, M.; Pastor-Ramon, E.; Agirre, O.; Morán, J.-M.; Herrera-Peco, I. Research note. Open letter to the users of the new PubMed: A critical appraisal. Prof. Inf. 202029, e290336. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  30. Singh, V.K.; Singh, P.; Karmakar, M.; Leta, J.; Mayr, P. The journal coverage of Web of Science, Scopus and Dimensions: A comparative analysis. Scientometrics 2021126, 5113–5142. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  31. Gasparyan, A.Y.; Ayvazyan, L.; Kitas, G. Multidisciplinary Bibliographic Databases. J. Korean Med. Sci. 201328, 1270–1275. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]