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Archive for March 25th, 2015

Citing to Wikipedia in Legal Scholarship


Should you cite to Wikipedia in a law review article or note? How often do authors do this? In a recent article in Canadian Law Library Review, Rex Shoyama examines Wikipedia citation in Canadian law journal and law review articles and draws some generalizations and conclusions.

Who’s doing it? Turns out, it’s mostly lawyers and law faculty who cite to Wikipedia the most. Law students and non-lawyers don’t cite to Wikipedia nearly as much.

What are they citing to Wikipedia for? 34% of the articles examined cite to Wikipedia for definitions and overviews of non-legal concepts. Another 21% cite to it for statistical data or historical information. Other categories of Wikipedia citations include legal concepts, news, facts or opinions, superfluous citations, citations to the existence of Wikipedia articles, and light-hearted references.

How many times does Wikipedia get cited per article? Mostly once.

Should you cite to Wikipedia? The author suggests that only very selective use of Wikipedia as a citation source is appropriate, and that citing to Wikipedia for legal concepts or statistical/historical data is inappropriate.

See Rex Shoyama, Citations to Wikipedia in Canadian Law Journal and Law Review Articles, 39(2) Canadian Law Library Review 11 (2014). Full text available on SSRN.