SSRN’s Impact on Citations to Legal Scholarship and How to Maximize It

28 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2022 Last revised: 9 Mar 2023

See all articles by Rob Willey

Rob Willey

George Mason University - George Mason University Law Library; George Mason University

Melanie Knapp

George Mason University Law Library

Date Written: February 17, 2022

Abstract

We recently documented several common characteristics of a set of well-cited papers. Our data indicate that unexpected factors — title length, number of pages, and so on — may play a role in citations. Here we use the same data set to explore the impact of another characteristic: open access. Specifically, the impact posting a version of an article to SSRN has on citations to the journal published article. To do that, we compared a set of well-cited articles to sets of poorly cited ones. The comparison focused on whether or not an SSRN version of the article existed, and, if so, the characteristics of the SSRN posting.

We expected to see some benefit from posting to SSRN because doing so increases exposure and gives other researchers, especially those who lack access to legal databases, an easily accessible version of the paper. The data supports our hypothesis. Nearly 90% of the well-cited papers we looked at had an SSRN corollary, while less than 50% of the poorly-cited papers did.

Several other characteristics also appear relevant. First, it matters when an author posts a paper to SSRN, with 95% of the top-articles group posting to SSRN in or before the year of journal publication. Second, the number of keywords and abstract length on SSRN appear to play a role in citations, with papers in the top-articles group tending to have more keywords and longer abstracts. Finally, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tools indicate that SSRN may have a search results visibility advantage over smaller open-source options, like individual journal websites.

In this paper, we offer a brief overview of prior research on the benefits of open access. We then provide our data and findings. We conclude with suggestions and details on the SSRN submission process and a discussion of how Google may handle SSRN PDFs. This paper looks at law-focused papers but many of the findings likely extend to other disciplines.

Keywords: open access, OA, SSRN, citations, legal citations, Search Engine Optimization, SEO, Google, abstract length

JEL Classification: K00, K10

Suggested Citation

Willey, Rob and Knapp, Melanie, SSRN’s Impact on Citations to Legal Scholarship and How to Maximize It (February 17, 2022). University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review, Vol. 45, No. 3, pp. 475–507 (2023), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4037744 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4037744

Rob Willey (Contact Author)

George Mason University - George Mason University Law Library ( email )

3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

George Mason University ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

Melanie Knapp

George Mason University Law Library ( email )

3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States
(703) 993-8103 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.law.gmu.edu/library/

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Downloads
180
Abstract Views
1,177
Rank
305,598
PlumX Metrics