Ranking Law Journals and the Limits of Journal Citation Reports

Theodore Eisenberg

Cornell University, Law School (Deceased)

Martin T. Wells

Cornell University - Law School

May 31, 2012

Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-30

Rankings of schools, scholars, and journals emphasize ordinal rank. Journal rankings published by Journal Citation Reports (JCR) are widely used to assess research quality, which influences important decisions by academic departments, universities, and countries. We study refereed law journal rankings by JCR, Washington and Lee Law Library (W&L), and the Australian Research Council (ARC). Both JCR’s and W&L’s multiple measures of journals can be represented by a single latent factor. Yet JCR’s rankings are uncorrelated with W&L’s. The differences appear to be attributable to underrepresentation of law journals in JCR’s database. We illustrate the effects of database bias on rankings through case studies of three elite journals, the Journal of Law & Economics, Supreme Court Review, and the American Law & Economics Review. Cluster analysis is a supplement to ordinal ranking and we report the results of a cluster analysis of law journals. The ARC does organize journals into four large groups and provides generally reasonable rankings of journals. But anomalies exist that could be avoided by checking the ARC groups against citation-based measures. Entities that rank should use their data to provide meaningful clusters rather than providing only ordinal ranks.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 36

Keywords: law reviews, law journals, ranking, ranking methodology, factor analysis, journal citation reports, jcr

JEL Classification: K00, K19

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Date posted: June 16, 2012  

Suggested Citation

Eisenberg, Theodore and Wells, Martin T., Ranking Law Journals and the Limits of Journal Citation Reports (May 31, 2012). Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-30. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2084169 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2084169

Contact Information

Theodore Eisenberg (Contact Author)
Cornell University, Law School (Deceased) ( email )
Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

Martin T. Wells
Cornell University - Law School ( email )
Comstock Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
607-255-8801 (Phone)

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