Published on October 26, 2020 by Leigh A. Jones, Evening/Weekend Reference Librarian
Citators (also known as citation services) are an extremely important part of legal research. Generally, they are used to determine how often a source has been cited by other sources. This is necessary because it allows legal researchers to determine whether an authority is still good law. The following are five facts about citators that can help the legal researcher in the quest for good information.
- Citators help researchers to understand legal history while gaining insight into what may happen in the future. Citation services are used to identify the history of a particular authority. Also, they are used to gain an understanding of how others view and have treated (negatively or positively) that particular authority. They allow the researcher to determine how often an authority has been cited by other documents and resources.
- Until the late 1990s, Shepard’s Citations Service (available in Lexis+) was the only comprehensive legal citation service. Today, it is still one of the most widely used citators.
KeyCite (available in Westlaw Edge) is, also, one of the most widely used citators.
- Although Shepard’s and KeyCite are the most widely used citators, there are other citation services that can be extremely useful to the legal researcher. The following platforms provide legal citators.
The Bloomberg Law Citator is known as BCITE. It provides information about the direct history of a source, case analyses, tables of authorities, and citing documents.
Casemaker’s citation service, called CaseCheck+, instantly provides information concerning whether case citations are still good law. Casemaker’s other citator, CiteCheck, allows the uploading of documents for citation analysis.
(It is important to remember that, due to varying algorithms, citators may not always return the same results, or they may not display those results in the same way. Therefore, it is good to become familiar with the capabilities of the particular citator that you decide to use.)
- There are other tools that might not be classified as traditional legal citators that can perform the same or similar functions.
The VersusLaw Research Database has a service through its Legal Research Center that provides an experienced researcher who will, for a fee, check and validate citations.
Google Scholar (and other Google search products) can be useful because Google uses citation analysis when retrieving search results. This analysis helps the researcher to determine how often a case, article, or other publication has been cited.
Full-text databases can be used as citators by searching for citations within the documents of that database. The results can then be analyzed to determine the impact of the cited resource.
- The following resources are just a few of the tools that are available for learning more about citators.