Monday, October 27, 2014

Should Your Law Review Article Have an Abstract and Table of Contents?

According to empirical research, the answer is yes. Articles with either an abstract or a table of contents generate more citations. Articles with both generate even more. Here is the abstract of the article, Should Your Law Review Article Have an Abstract and Table of Contents?, by Lee Petherbridge & Christopher Anthony Cotropia:

To explore whether abstracts and tables of contents impact the scholarly influence of academic work in the field of legal studies we analyze the impact of these document elements on citation to articles published in top 100 law reviews. We observe that on average both abstracts and tables of contents associate with large increases in scholarly influence. Compared to articles that use neither document element, articles that include just an abstract are cited on average roughly 50% more, and articles that include just a table of contents roughly 30% more. Including both document elements corresponds to the largest increase in citation, over 70%. The Article discusses the title question, and in view of the magnitude and persistence of document element effects and evidence indicating that document elements offer an independent explanation of scholarly influence, answers it in the affirmative. It concludes by offering a hypothesis capable of explaining the effects of abstracts and tables of contents. Specifically, that both of these document elements work by reducing cognitive burdens researchers experience when performing research tasks, although sometimes in different ways.


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