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Sunday, October 09, 2011

Citations: A Small Rant

If a sentence in an academic legal paper states, "Many scholars argue X," that sentence ordinarily should have a citation, and that citation should list more than one scholar! The only exception occurs when the sentence is the topic sentence for a textual discussion of the "many scholars" with appropriate citations included.

If a sentence in an academic legal paper states, "Professor X argues that the sky is blue," the sentence ordinarily should have a citation to the work of Professor X, rather than to the work of Professor Y discussing Professor X.  

That is all, for the time being.  Now I shall return to reviewing scholarship.



Posted by Lyrissa Lidsky on October 9, 2011 at 03:32 PM in Lyrissa Lidsky | Permalink


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Dear Anon1stYearProf,
Please be reassured that such errors are common and that I do not judge drafts/works in progress by 1stYearProfs so harshly as to exclude anyone who makes such errors. Please accept my subsequent post regarding interview tips for AALS as atonement for any unnecessary anxiety I may have caused. I'm looking forward to meeting you at the conference. Lyrissa

Posted by: Lyrissa | Oct 10, 2011 8:32:39 PM

While I agree with the substance of the rant as it pertains to publised scholarship, I assume that the papers that you are reviewing are in anticipation of next week's festivities (if not, please disregard this post). If the papers are works in progress, the footnotes would not necessarily be 100% perfect. In addition, given the self-doubt that is likely currently plaguing the applicants (or at least that's how I felt last year) that it might be best to save these types of rants until post-AALS (given that applicants can't change what they've already done).

Posted by: Anon1stYearProf | Oct 10, 2011 6:10:56 PM

Lyrissa, thanks for this great rant: we should file this post under the heading of the Ethics of Legal Scholarship, a topic I've long been interested in: Cf. http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2006/12/thoughts_on_the.html

Posted by: Dan Markel | Oct 10, 2011 2:28:15 PM

In the first situation you describe, I would also do what you do, with both the see, e.g., cite and see also cite, but perhaps this is overkill.

Posted by: Lyrissa | Oct 10, 2011 8:55:38 AM

"If a sentence in an academic legal paper states, 'Many scholars argue X,' that sentence ordinarily should have a citation, and that citation should list more than one scholar!"

Question: If a number of other commentators have noted that "many scholars have argued X" with reasonably exhaustive citations, do you prefer a string cite to the already cited "primary" works, or a cite to the later "secondary" works cataloguing them with an appropriate parenthetical? I typically do a hybrid approach and cite a handful of the former with a "see e.g.", then a "see also" to the latter. But I'd love to save words and space and skip the first step.

"If a sentence in an academic legal paper states, 'Professor X argues that the sky is blue,' the sentence ordinarily should have a citation to the work of Professor X, rather than to the work of Professor Y discussing Professor X."

I know this caveat is largely edicepted through the "ordinarily" qualifier, but I can see a reasonably common exception when "Professor X's" argument is taken from multiple works over several years, as opposed to any specific stand-alone article. (Though you'd expect some explanation for how the components fit together to make up the sum argument, with specific citations, but I digress.)

Posted by: Apropos of this | Oct 9, 2011 10:59:58 PM

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