Citations to Wikipedia in Law Reviews
45 Pages Posted: 21 Dec 2009 Last revised: 19 Feb 2010
Date Written: December 18, 2009
Whether in court decisions or law review articles, Wikipedia is being used as a reference resource, and most likely will continue to be used as such. Only recently have commentators turned their attentions to this phenomenon. However, the main focus of these writers has been on the use of Wikipedia in the judicial process, whether by litigants relying on Wikipedia in their pleadings or judges relying on it in their decisions. No one, as of yet, has examined the use of Wikipedia in the legal scholarship context. Considering that most judges, and practically all judicial law clerks, honed their writing, researching, and editing skills while members of law reviews, we should examine this practice in that environment. The purpose of this paper is to shine a light on the citation aspect of the Wikipedia-as-authority phenomenon by providing detailed statistics on the scope of its use and critiquing or building on the arguments of other commentators.
Part II provides an overview of the debate regarding the citation of Wikipedia. After discussing the purposes of citation generally, this article examines why authors choose to cite to Wikipedia and explains why such citation is nonetheless problematic despite its perceived advantages. Part III then discusses a citation analysis performed on works published by nearly 500 American law reviews between 2002 and 2008. First, the methodology for the analysis is described, from how the law reviews were selected to how the individual citations were organized and classified. Then, the results of the analysis are announced along with any trends that may be discerned from the statistics. Finally, Part IV delves into the question of the propriety of citing to Wikipedia, culminating in a call for tighter editorial standards.
Keywords: Wikipedia, legal citation, law reviews, law journals, legal writing
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