Remedial math lesson: When does one reference equal an entire paper?
Trouble is, the researcher did reference the article more than once — raising the question of whether a retraction, rather than a correction, was the right move.
The paper was written by Lynne Kowski, a professor of mathematics at Raritan Valley Community College in New Jersey, and it appeared online in November 2013 in the Community College Journal of Research and Practice.
Here’s the abstract of the article, “Mathematics Remediation’s Connection to Community College Success:”
The purpose of this study is to test the efficacy of college-level remedial math programs, specifically in community colleges. In this study, chi-square independence test and logistic regression were used to compare the long-term academic outcomes of 1,169 first-year community college students. Findings show that students requiring remediation in mathematics and successfully remediated into a college-level math class, experienced comparable outcomes to those not requiring math remediation. This indicates that remedial math programs can be highly effective at resolving skill deficiencies.
But as the retraction notice indicates, Kowski’s paper was missing a number:
We, the Editor and Publisher of the Community College Journal of Research and Practice, are retracting the following article, ‘‘Mathematics Remediation’s Connection to Community College Success,’’ by Lynne E. Kowski published in Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 38(1), 54–67, 2014.
The aforementioned article failed to reference the following article: Bahr, P.R. 2008. Does mathematics remediation work?: A comparative analysis of academic attainment among community college students. Research in Higher Education, 49(5), 420–450. DOI: 10.1007=s11162-008-9089-4
This action constitutes a breach of warranties made by the author with respect to originality. We note that we received, peer-reviewed, accepted, and published the article in good faith based on these warranties, and censure this action.
The retracted article will remain online to maintain the scholarly record, but it will be digitally watermarked on each page as RETRACTED.
Bahr is Peter Bahr, of the University of Michigan.
Kowski tells us that she does not agree with the retraction, and that she feels she should have been offered a chance to correct her error:
The retraction states I did not reference the Bahr 2008 article, yet I did reference the article multiple times and in the reference list. Unfortunately there was one area where I forgot to reference him in my conclusions.
I received an email after the decision was made, saying my work was not “original”. It was only after I asked what they meant by my work not being “original”. I gave them a rebuttal stating that this was my original research. It was not until then that they gave details about the missed references.
They only gave me an offer of what I could state to include in the retraction.
Kowski added that she might have pushed back had she had more publishing experience:
As I have only published once before and never encountered this, I did not give any additional comment. I was too shocked and hurt and afraid I would only make the situation worse.
Also, since the decision was already made and I was never offered an opportunity to fix my error, I did not ask.
We contacted the journal to find out why it thought retracting the paper was a better course than issuing a correction and will update this post if we get an answer.