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Evaluating Scholarly and Peer Reviewed Sources: Retractions and Predatory Journals


The retraction of an article is the removal of an already published article from a journal. This decision may be made by the journal's editor and/or editorial board. Retractions do not happen because of small editorial errors. An article would be corrected in this case. Retractions reflect more serious issues with an article.

Retractions may occur because of

  • errors in the research
  • issues with reproducibility of the research
  • plagiarism
  • falsification of data or results
  • fabrication of data or results
  • copyright infringement
  • failure to disclose conflict of interest
  • no institutional review board approval for research on human subjects or animals


  • Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). (2021). Retraction Guidelines.
  • National Science Foundation (n.d.).  Key regulations.

(from Walden University Library "Journal Article Retraction")

Predatory Journals

Predatory or unethical publishing is typically defined as publishers or journals who have employed deceptive or questionable processes to profit from publishing scholarly works. Some of these practices include:

  • journal names or website designs that can be confused with established journals
  • misleading claims for peer review, indexing, impact factors, or editorial board members
  • author fees for editorial and publishing services, such as peer review, without such services being provided
  • lack of transparency about policies, location, and staff
  • mass e-mails soliciting submission to the journal or invitations to serve on editorial boards

Defining or identifying unethical journals or publishers has involved controversy and complex issues.

  • The term predatory has been seen as pejorative by some;  other terms used that you may see coupled with publishers and/or journals include:
    • deceptive
    • dubious
    • exploitative
    • pseudo-journals
    • questionable 
    • unethical
  • Defining which journals are predatory has been a controversial undertaking as well, sometimes involving litigation
  • Strategies for identifying unethical publishers have involved blacklists, whitelists, open access publisher association guidelines for inclusion in the association, and evaluation strategies and checklists
  • The increasing sophistication of deceptive publishers and the techniques they use means that identifying these publishers cannot be accomplished in one quick, simple step the way you can identify peer-reviewed journals, for example.
  • The issues of predatory publishing are complex and touch on many issues of modern scholarly publishing:
    • the rising cost of subscription journals
    • the proliferation of published works
    • the open access movement
    • the need for academics to publish to obtain/maintain tenure, and ethical research and publishing

For more information about the issues, please see A quick overview of deceptive publishing issues section.

(from Walden University Library's "Predatory or Unethical Publishing")