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How to use SSRN for research; tips for using SSRN to share papers.

SSRN Metrics

SSRN displays various metrics about papers, authors, and institutions. On the paper level, you can see how many times its abstract has been viewed and how many times it has been downloaded. On the author level, you can see how many papers that author has posted, how many times each has been downloaded, and how that author ranks. And on the institution level, you can see the authors affiliated with an institution and their various download stats, as well as rankings.

To see some of the metrics, you will need to log in, but remember that registering is free.

Metrics for Papers

For example, when you look at the abstract for Designing Islamic Constitutions: Past Trends and Options for a Democratic Future by Clark Lombardi, you see that the abstract has been viewed 12,018 times, the paper has been downloaded 6,938 times, and that download counts ranks it 662nd among papers on SSRN. (This snapshot was Jan. 14, 2018.)

screen snip Designing Islamic Constitutions metrics


Metrics for Papers: References & Citations

For some papers, you will also see figures for references and citations. For example, Reconciling Efficient Markets with Behavioral Finance: The Adaptive Markets Hypothesis, by Andrew W. Lo 116 references and 29 citations. That means that the paper has 116 references in its bibliography and that 30 other papers on SSRN have cited it. (Snapshot on Jan. 14, 2018.)

screen snip Reconciling Efficient Markets metrics


These counts are generally not helpful for papers in law. Why? Because the automated system SSRN uses to generate them looks only at references that are listed at the end of a paper. Law journals (and legal scholars) almost always put citations in footnotes and do not have separate lists of references at the ends of papers. If you rely on these metrics, it will look as though a legal scholar has cited nothing and is never cited.

For tools to find and count citations to articles, see Tracking Citations to Articles.

Top 10,000 Papers

SSRN posts a list of its Top 10,000 Papers. The default ranking is by number of downloads in the last 12 months, but you can also look at total downloads and some other measures.

Top Authors

SSRN posts the Top 30,000 Authors (from all disciplines). You can also look at the Top 3,000 Law Authors.

You can slice the numbers in different ways: new downloads, number of new papers, new downloads per paper, total downloads, etc.

SSRN now has over 360,000 authors. To offer a little ego boost, SSRN periodically sends messages to the top 30,000 authors, by new downloads and by all-time downloads, to let them know they're in the top 10%.

Top Law Schools

SSRN ranks law schools by different measures—e.g., downloads in the last 12 months, all-time downloads, number of authors, downloads per author.

You can view the Top 750 Law Schools, the Top 350 U.S. Law Schools, or the Top 500 International Law Schools. ("International" here means "non-U.S.") You can change the sort by clicking on the heading at the top of a column.

You can search for a school, e.g., University of Washington. On Jan. 1, 2018, UW Law was ranked 25th in new downloads.

screen snip UW Law in law school rankings

You can click on Authors to see a list of all the authors included with that institution. For UW Law (as for other schools) authors can include students as well as faculty. You can sort alphabetically, by recent downloads, by all-time downloads, by number of papers, and so on.

Cautions About SSRN Metrics

Note that the metrics SSRN offers are limited.

  • Not all authors post their papers on SSRN. Some productive, influential scholars are not represented at all.
  • Not all authors affiliated with a law school are faculty.
  • Not all researchers find their sources on SSRN. SSRN downloads say nothing about downloads from, say, LexisNexis, Westlaw, or HeinOnline, let alone journal websites or individuals' websites. And some people still read articles in print!
  • Researchers might download an article a lot because its abstract seems interesting and then, once they read it, decide that it's not very useful. A high download count is not a perfect proxy for high quality.
  • References and Citations are undercounted for law papers. See above.
  • SSRN doesn't include books (although some authors post book introductions and individual chapters).