Paul L. Caron

Monday, March 29, 2021

How To Juice Your Citations In The HeinOnline/U.S. News Rankings

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:

Hein US NewsUsing 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:

Law School Rankings, Legal Ed Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink