Michael Conklin, ‘The Longer They Are, the More Citations They Receive: How Impact Factor Punishes Concise Scholarship’

ABSTRACT
One does not need to be a highly cited legal scholar to conclude that – since impact factor is measured per article and longer articles are more likely to garner citations – impact factor incentivizes the publication of longer articles. And for anyone unable to make the connection, none other than the Washington & Lee Law Journal Rankings (W&LLJR) website explicitly spells this out. The second sentence of the impact factor methodology page explains, ‘Impact Factor rankings should be considered with caution, as they are biased against journals that publish a larger number of concise articles, such as book reviews’. The relationship between article length and impact factor – despite being significant and salient – receives no coverage in the literature on citation-count criticism. This Article first explains the significance of impact factor not only to law journal rankings but also to law school rankings. It then chronicles existing criticism of citation-count metrics. The Article provides a practical demonstration of the effects of article size on impact factor using two Stanford Law Journals. Next the Article considers likely objections to calls to reform the impact factor. Finally, the Article concludes by calling for future research on the subject.

Conklin, Michael, The Longer They Are, the More Citations They Receive: How Impact Factor Punishes Concise Scholarship (October 5, 2020).

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