Incorrect Citations

Wonderful as it is to be cited, being cited incorrectly poses a dilemma.  If your article is referenced for a proposition it does not support, what should you do?  Should you alert the author of the piece or the editor of the journal?   Should you ignore it?  Should you correct the reference the next time you publish on the topic?

Perhaps the ideal response varies with the degree of error.   Scholars delight to participate in the discourse, after all, and sometimes a citation that seems incorrect to an author is really  a way to advance the conversation.  A reference in ensuing scholarship explaining that contribution would be apt.   Sometimes a piece is cited for a general point that an author rather than a reader would recognize as a bit afield. No response at all is okay.

But what about a statement that is clearly wrong? Suppose someone makes an assertion that European accounting law is principles based and cites my Vanderbilt Law Review article challenging the whole notion of principles based accounting.   It infuriates me.  I want to write to the author and editor to object.  But should I? Should  I care?

The problem is even worse than appears, because while I am particularly sensitive to incorrect citations to my own work, I also see incorrect citations to the work of others with which I’m familiar.  It appears that many writers and editors today cite things without really reading them.  It seems as though someone should say something.  But who?  And to whom?

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5 Responses

  1. Bobby says:

    The appropriate response, from Annie Hall

    Man in Theatre Line: It just so happens I teach a class at Columbia called “TV, Media, and Culture.” So I think my insights into Mr. MaMcLuhan, well, have a great deal of validity!
    Alvy Singer: Oh, do ya? Well, that’s funny, because I happen to have Mr. McLuhan right here, so, so, yeah, just let me… [pulls McLuhan out from behind a nearby poster]… Come over here for a second… tell him!
    Marshall McLuhan: I heard what you were saying! You know nothing of my work!…How you got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing!
    Alvy Singer: [breaking the fourth wall] Boy, if life were only like this!

  2. Chris says:

    This could start a new meme, “Law Professor Problems.” 😉

  3. Solution says:

    Well, I will help you out by never citing you. If everyone follows, you will not have this “problem” again. Be flattered you were mentioned and move right along. As important as you may like to think your work is, this incorrect citation is unlikely to harm anything other than your ego.

  4. Lawrence Cunningham says:

    Solution: Ouch!

  5. SecondYearProf says:

    It is the responsibility of law review editors to ensure that each citation supports the text “above the line”. If the error is particularly egregious, I see no reason not to alert the editors of the piece.