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MSL Introduction to Legal Research: Citators

Legal research assistance for MSL students writing seminar papers.

What are Citators?

Citators allow you to know how the primary authority you are relying upon has been subsequently treated.

In law, the best-known citators are KeyCite which is available in Westlaw and Shepard's which is available in LexisNexis.

Using KeyCite on Westlaw

Uses of KeyCite

  • To determine whether there is negative treatment of a document,
  • To determine whether there is information you need to know about a document,
  • To lead you to more documents to support your argument.

How to Access KeyCite

  • From within the document
    • A KeyCite flag appears above the title of the document with most severe and recent negative treatment spelled out.
    • Tabs across the top of the document provide in-depth information about its treatment and history.
  • Type kc followed by the document's citation in the search box at top of page, this takes you directly to the document's KeyCite report.

Meaning of Flags

  • Red flag
    • Cases & administrative decisions - Warns that the document is no longer good law for at least one of the points it contains.
    • Statutes, court rules, regulations - Warns that the document has been amended, repealed, superseded, or held unconstitutional or preempted in whole or in part.
  • Yellow flag
    • Cases & administrative decisions - Some negative history exists but the document has not been reversed or overruled.
    • Statutes, court rules, regulations - The document has been renumbered, there is proposed legislation or a proposed rule that will effect the document if passed, that it was limited or called into doubt. 
  • Blue-striped flag
    • The cited case has been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals or U.S. Supreme Court.

History vs. Citing References

  • History is the procedural path of the document.
  • Citing references are other documents that have cited the original document.

NOTE: Patent and trademark history and citing references are also available in KeyCite.


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