August 16, 2005
The Mother of All Law Review Citation Studies Finds Dead Papers Abound
Law Prof Thomas Smith (San Diego) has beaten law librarians to the punch; he has performed the mother of all citation studies for law review articles. Using Shepard's database with the cooperation of Lexis, the data for Smith's study covers about 385,000 law review articles, notes, comments, etc. etc. that appear in 726 law reviews and journals, and looks at how often they are cited by other law reviews or cases.
Smith's findings confirm what many law librarians have suspected for years -- law review volumes largely consist of dead papers:
First of all, 43 percent of the articles are not cited . . . at all. Zero, nada, zilch. Almost 80 percent (i.e. 79 percent) of law review articles get ten or fewer citations. So where are all the citations going? Well, let's look at articles that get more than 100 citations. These are the elite. They make up less than 1 percent of all articles, .898 percent to be precise. They get, is anybody listening out there? 96 percent of all citations to law review articles. That's all. Only 96 percent. Talk about concentration of wealth.
Smith notes that "the distributions of cites to law review articles and to cases look the same."
How does Professor Smith know about the similar distribution curves? See the preliminary report of his case law citation analysis, The Web of Law (Spring 2005). Quoting from the SSRN abstract:
Precedential authority is concentrated in a remarkably small number of cases. Of over 4 million cases, the top 1000 most cited state and federal cases, only .025 percent, get about 80 percent of all citations. The vast majority of cases are rarely or never cited. The most cited 2 percent of US Supreme Court cases get 96 percent of all citations to Supreme Court cases.
For the law review study, hat tip to Brian Leiter, Leiter Reports, July 15, 2005, by way of Wendy Scott, Barclay Blog, July 18, 2005 post
July 18th? Yes, that's how far behind I am in reading my Blogline subscriptions (and Blogline only saves the last 200 posts of a blog).
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Mother of All Law Review Citation Studies Finds Dead Papers Abound:
Now, lack of citation does not dead paper make. To argue the opposite is like saying books not checked out of the library are dead paper. But what if they are only read in the library, and what if they are only read in the library once during the course of seventy years? That would seem, to me anyway, to make them hibernating articles that germinate once ever seventy, or so, years. How many of the uncited articles help the rare person who stumbles upon the in the throws of research rapture? I doubt that number could be scientifically determined.
If the 4% of all citations are to articles other than the .898% "elite" ones, the articles that get cited 4% are no more dead than the 4% of all Supreme Court cases that do not compose the elite group of 2,400, out of 100,000, cases Smith mentions that garner 96% of all citations to Supreme Court cases (pp.26-27 SSRN). After all those not-elite Supreme Court cases that make up the remaining 4% of citations might also be cited once every seventy years, but they too would not be dead but only hibernating until the conditions are ripe for their binding force or for their reversal.
Posted by: Alexander Tsesis | Aug 18, 2005 8:13:43 PM