Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Westlaw JLR vs. Google Scholar

According to the Sisk data using the Westlaw JLR ("Journals and Law Reviews") database, 553 articles mentioned me between 2013 and 2017; according to Google Scholar, I had over 2,000 citations during this same time period (and over 500 in 2017 alone).   This isn't atypical for many law professors, and certainly is quite typical for those doing interdisciplinary scholarship of various kinds.  Why the differences?  There are two main reasons:

First, Google Scholar tracks references to individual works, so an article that mentions, say, five different articles by a scholar produces 5 citations in Google Scholar, but just 1 via the Westlaw method, which tracks names, not individual works.

Second, Google Scholar tracks not simply law journals, but journals in all fields, as well as books, dissertations, and draft papers that are on-line.  That is the most important difference.

Should we prefer Google Scholar as an "impact" measure in law?  Put aside the logistical problem that most law faculty do not have Google Scholar pages, though that is a serious obstacle.  Google Scholar may give a better picture of general scholarly impact based on citations, but it does less well in terms of impact on law and legal scholarship precisely because it is so broad in its reach, capturing citations in, e.g., philosophy journals, books and dissertations.   (Do the 600+ citations to my 2002 book on Nietzsche's moral philosophy make me a more impactful legal philosopher?  Not for most legal philosophers, I suspect (but they don't know what they're missing)!)  Westlaw is probably a better snapshot of impact on other legal academics.

Still, if more law professors would set up Google Scholar pages, some enterprising person could examine the differences more carefully with Westlaw's database of law journals and reviews.

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