International Law Scholarship: An Empirical Study

24 Pages Posted: 10 May 2024

See all articles by Oona A. Hathaway

Oona A. Hathaway

Yale University - Law School

John Bowers

Yale University - Law School

Date Written: May 5, 2024


Where is international law scholarship published? In what kinds of journals is it published? What differences are there between foreign and domestic publications? What topics does international law scholarship cover? Which of this scholarship is most heavily cited? Which authors produce the scholarship that has the greatest impact? How has all of this changed over time? These are simple questions to which, perhaps surprisingly, we have not had clear answers—until now. This Article seeks to provide a new understanding of international legal scholarship and how it has changed over more than a century. It does so by analyzing a dataset built from bulk metadata obtained from HeinOnline. That dataset includes 173,802 articles identified by HeinOnline as addressing international law. This is, we believe, the largest database of international law scholarship to date.

Analyzing this dataset, we arrive at a number of striking findings: Even though peer-reviewed journals publish far more articles, articles published in student-run journals (nearly all of which are based in the United States) are far more heavily cited. Globally, among the twenty-five most influential international law journals as ranked by h-index, only one is published outside the United States, and twenty are student run. Of these twenty, fifteen do not primarily focus on international law. When it comes to citations, it is a winner-take-all world: Of the 173,802 articles considered in our analysis, only 20,609 received more than 5 citations. The top 10% of journals garner 87.9% of all citations. The bottom 50% of journals garner only 0.2% of all citations combined. Perhaps less surprising, the majority of heavily cited international law authors are male (91 of the top 100) and based in the United States (91 of the top 100). Many of these findings raise as many questions as they answer, and it is our hope that this Article inspires further investigation into international law scholarship.

Keywords: International law

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Hathaway, Oona A. and Bowers, John, International Law Scholarship: An Empirical Study (May 5, 2024). Yale Journal of International Law, Vol. 49, 2024, Available at SSRN:

Oona A. Hathaway (Contact Author)

Yale University - Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States
203-432-4992 (Phone)
203-432-1107 (Fax)

John Bowers

Yale University - Law School ( email )

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