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December 26, 1990

Peer Review

JAMA. 1990;264(24):3142. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03450240044017

To the Editor. —  The recent article "Quotational and Reference Accuracy in Surgical Journals"1 illustrates a problematic lack of verification of original sources. I advise JAMA to insert a statement in its Instructions for Authors that all references must be read personally by the author(s).To provide a historical perspective, in the late 1830s Sir James Paget wrote biographies of distinguished scientists in the Biographical Dictionary, published by the then very important Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. As noted before,2 he subsequently wrote: "I learnt more than ever the value or necessity of always referring, if possible, to the very book, volume, and page quoted from, or from which any statement is made, and the similar necessity of verifying every reference made from another. Nothing could better teach the difficulty, necessity, and rarity of accuracy in writing than did this work in biography."3