Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Krauss: Pincites

Sam Fox Krauss (J.D. 2022, NYU; Google Scholar), Note, Pincites, 97 N.Y.U. L. Rev. __ (2022):

Within the literature on legal scholarship, academics have studied citation practices. For example, scholars have examined which authors, journals, and articles are most-cited. But no one has examined which parts of articles scholars cite. Understanding which parts of articles scholars cite is not only intrinsically interesting, but also could inform how authors structure articles. This Note presents the results of a unique, hand-coded dataset of thousands of pinpoint citations. In brief: authors are more likely to cite the beginning of articles but split their remaining citations roughly evenly among the remainder. This pattern holds across flagship journals of variously-ranked law schools and articles of varying lengths, but is less-pronounced for self-citation. While a cynical explanation of the data is possible, a better explanation serves as a modest rebuttal to certain criticisms of legal scholarship.

The purpose of this study was to determine where authors draw pincites from. The data show that the pincites cluster at the beginning of articles and then even out. Authors are less likely to cite the beginning of their own articles. Long articles do not dissuade deep pincites. Moreover, these trends hold at the Yale Law Journal as well as law journals at schools of divergent rank. While this result could be cynically interpreted as yet another contribution to the law review grievance literature—in particular, that people do not make it through law review articles, especially long ones—in fact it shows that scholars generally are willing to dig deep for citations, and that this subspecies of citation practice holds across the discipline. If there is a normative implication from all this, it is that authors should not be afraid to put substantive material deep into their articles: scholars will find it.

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