Following up on last week's post, U.S. News Denies Report That It Will Replace The 40% Reputation Component With HeinOnline Citations In Next Year's Law School Rankings: Rob Willey (George Mason) & Melanie Knapp (George Mason), Hein, U.S. News, and How to Increase Citations:
Using nearly 250,000 law review articles published on HeinOnline in a five-year period, the authors analyze citation patterns and characteristics of the articles such as title length, number of authors, article length, publication format, and more. The authors describe past citation studies and best practices in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The authors find that factors beyond article quality likely impact scholarly citations. Drawing from the lessons in the citation patterns, article characteristics, and SEO best practices, the authors offer techniques to increase the article citation counts of articles published in U.S. law journals.
Based on data pulled from Hein, U.S. News will introduce a new scholarly impact ranking later this year. While this new ranking has the potential to improve the overall law school rankings, it opens the door to a wide-range of potential issues from citation cartels to keyword stuffing to less focus on important but less well-known areas of the law. Using lessons from the SEO world, the authors conclude with a detailed discussion of these potential problems.
In this article, we focused on providing legal authors with methods that may increase their citation counts. We also pointed out potential issues for exploiting U.S. News’ proposed ranking system. This may lead some to ask if our suggested proposals are exploiting the system? There is a difference between tailoring articles to meet the preferences of readers and purposefully manipulating an article solely for the purpose of increasing its citations. We believe that whenever there is a gray area, authors should think of their readers and would-be citers. Will the edit benefit them? If so, do it. If not, ask whether the edit deceives. We discussed several deceptive behaviors, like adding authors to an article when they made no contribution or cramming keywords into footnotes in hopes of a higher rank. To those practicing or considering deceptive behavior, we close with a few words of caution. First, deceptive practices are morally dubious. Second, it is likely that abusers will eventually be found out and their schools may be punished as Google punished black hat practices in the SEO world. In fact, abusers are already being identified and reprimanded in other fields, both formally by publishers and informally by peers studying and drawing attention to bad behavior.
We wish all our readers the best in their efforts to increase the visibility of the valuable scholarship they are doing and look forward to U.S. News’ efforts to better their ranking system.
Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:
- U.S. News To Publish Law Faculty Scholarly Impact Ranking Based On 2014-2018 Citations (Feb. 13, 2019)
- U.S. News FAQ: Law School Scholarly Impact Rankings (Feb. 14, 2019)
- More Coverage Of The U.S. News Law Faculty Scholarly Impact Rankings (Feb. 15, 2019)
- Robert Anderson (Pepperdine), Some Contrarian Thoughts On The U.S. News Faculty Scholarly Impact Rankings (Feb. 18, 2019)
- Law Prof Commentary On The U.S. News Faculty Scholarly Impact Rankings (Feb. 19, 2019)
- U.S. News Updates FAQ On Law School Scholarly Impact Rankings To Address Inclusion Of Non-Doctrinal Faculty (Feb. 21, 2019)
- Joe Lawprofblawg (Anonymous Professor, Top 100 Law School) & Darren Bush (Houston), A Hilarious (In The Footnotes) Yet Serious (In The Text) Discussion Of Law Reviews And Law Professors (Feb. 26, 2019)
- U.S. News Updates FAQ On Law School Scholarly Impact Rankings To Address Inclusion Of Non-Doctrinal Faculty (Feb. 27, 2019)
- Derek Muller (Pepperdine), Gaming The New U.S. News Citation Rankings (Mar. 6, 2019)
- Jeff Sovern (St. John's), How The U.S. News Scholarly Impact Rankings Could Hurt Niche Subjects (March 11, 2019)
- Ted Sichelman (San Diego), A Defense And Explanation Of The U.S. News 'Citation' Ranking (March 20, 2019)
- U.S. News Offers More Guidance, Meeting With Law School Deans On New Scholarly Impact Rankings (May 2, 2019)
- The U.S. News Citation Ranking Is A 'Rigged Metrics Game' That 'Imperils Legal Academia' (Oct. 10, 2019)
- Heald & Sichelman: The Top 100 Law School Faculties In Citations (Hein) And Impact (SSRN Downloads) (Nov. 11, 2019)
- Sisk: Citations — 'A Valid, If Imperfect, Proxy For Faculty Scholarly Impact On A National Scale' (Nov. 11, 2019)
- Bob Morse Discusses The U.S. News Law School Rankings Today At Texas A&M Virtual Conference (June 5, 2020)
- U.S. News To Publish Law Faculty Scholarly Impact Ranking In 2021 (Nov. 9, 2020)
- 2022 U.S. News Law School Rankings (Mar. 9, 2021)
- The New U.S. News Law School Rankings Methodology: Implications And Predictions (Mar. 22, 2021)
- U.S. News Denies Report That It Will Replace The 40% Reputation Component With HeinOnline Citations In Next Year's Law School Rankings (Mar. 22, 2021)