No one would argue against the importance of citators.  They help us determine whether our law is good, distinguished, or overturned.  But they do so much more!  Much like the gooey cake under a rich frosting, the beauty of citators lies in what's underneath.

Citators can be essential to researching your topic, whether you are writing a court document or article.  Once you find the relevant statute to apply to your facts, you have all you need. Citators provide cases that interpret your statute and secondary sources that explain your statute.

All the major legal research databases have their version of citators, or citing references.  Chances are you've dipped your toe in here or there, but these citing references can save you time and money over keyword searching, so it's time to dive right in.

As shown in this helpful research guide, Westlaw features their citing references above the document retrieved.  They include Notes of Decisions, Context and References, and the broader category of Citing References.  These include cases, court documents, secondary sources, and administrative documents.  These already collected resources can tell you what happened before your statute or case, what has occurred since, and what people are saying about it.  Rather than spend hours of time searching by keyword or for a specific document, these curated annotations can provide context and analysis.

Lexis Advance's citator Shepard's is well known for identifying when a case may have negative treatment.  But as shown in this research guide, Lexis also provides Appellate History, Treatises, and Headnotes. These are all displayed in the right hand side of the webpage.

Similarly, Bloomberg Law offers Bcite.  As shown in this research guide, Bcite provides a similar interface and comparable analysis to Westlaw and Lexis Advance.  Citators can provide not only analysis, but can also lead you to good law when your case has been distinguished.  Or establish a research trail to a binding case when yours is merely persuasive.

Whichever platform you prefer, the next time you log in, peruse a few of those tabs around your document.  I promise it will be worth your time.

Submitted by Elizabeth Manriquez on November 12, 2020

This article appears in the categories: Law Library

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