Do they practice what they preach? The presence of problematic citations in business ethics research

Alexander Serenko, John Dumay, Pei-Chi Kelly Hsiao, Chun Wei Choo

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Purpose
In scholarly publications, citations play an essential epistemic role in creating and disseminating knowledge. Conversely, the use of problematic citations impedes the growth of knowledge, contaminates the knowledge base and disserves science. This study investigates the presence of problematic citations in the works of business ethics scholars.

Design/methodology/approach
The authors investigated two types of problematic citations: inaccurate citations and plagiarized citations. For this, 1,200 randomly selected citations from three leading business ethics journals were assessed based on: (1) referenced journal errors, (2) article title errors and (3) author name errors. Other papers that replicated the same title errors were identified.

Findings
Of the citations in the examined business ethics journals, 21.42% have at least one error. Of particular concern are the citation errors in article titles, where 3.75% of examined citations have minor errors and another 3.75% display major errors – 7.5% in total. Two-thirds of minor and major title errors were repeatedly replicated in previous and ensuing publications, which confirms the presence of citation plagiarism. An average article published in a business ethics journal contains at least three plagiarized citations. Even though business ethics fares well compared to other disciplines, a situation where every fifth citation is problematic is unacceptable.

Practical implications
Business ethics scholars are not immune to the use of problematic citations, and it is unlikely that attempting to improve researchers' awareness of the unethicality of this behavior will bring a desirable outcome.

Originality/value
Identifying that problematic citations exist in the business ethics literature is novel because it is expected that these researchers would not condone this practice.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Documentation
Volume77
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1304-1320
Number of pages17
ISSN0022-0418
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Oct 2021

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