Research Guides

TMLL Research Guide - Chapter 7


Electronic citation services are currently available on Bloomberg Law, Lexis, and Westlaw.

KeyCite (Westlaw)

KeyCite is Westlaw’s citation service that covers all cases on Westlaw, the United States Code Annotated, the Code of Federal Regulations, and statutes from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. KeyCite arranges this information in a manner that eliminates many of the stylistic details that can make print citators confusing. It also attempts to help researchers determine which subsequent cases are likely to be significant, answering the time-honored question, "Do I have to look at all those cases?"

Instead of listing citing cases in a roughly chronological arrangement with the use of margin codes such as "r" for reversed or "d" for distinguished (as in the print version of Shepard's), KeyCite arranges the citing cases into four categories that indicate the depth of discussion given to the original case. Cases that provide extended discussion (defined by West as more than one printed page) are listed first. Three subsequent categories follow, which reflect declining degrees of depth of treatment, ending with a final category of cases that mention the original opinion in passing, usually in a string cite. Within each category, cases from the same jurisdiction as the court that decided the original case are listed first, followed by cases from other jurisdictions. The full text of each case in the listing can be accessed by clicking on its name in the list. Non-case materials, such as secondary sources, that cite the original opinion are also listed at the end of the display and are hot-linked.

KeyCite also permits restriction of the display of citing cases to those dealing with only the issue(s) of particular interest to the researcher. This technique is tied to the West headnotes and their corresponding topics and key numbers. This facilitates coordination of online research with print research techniques.

Texts of cases on Westlaw are linked to KeyCite by a system of graphics that signal the reader of an online opinion that important subsequent history or treatment of the opinion exists. Above the title of the case there may appear a blue "H" for "History" or a red or yellow flag that signals important negative treatment. Clicking on the signal takes the reader into the KeyCite display.

KeyCite is very current. West states that full KeyCite coverage is available within a few hours of the time a case appears online, and that it is updated equally quickly. KeyCite Alert is a service that monitors the status of cases and statutes and sends automatic updates when their KeyCite information changes. KeyCite Alert allows the researcher to specify how frequently the case or statute should be checked, and how the alert should be delivered. Delivery by email is one option. KeyCite also includes other features such as a Table of Authorities for each case, which is an alphabetical list of all cases cited within an opinion and signals for any of those cases that have negative history.

Shepard's (Lexis)

The Lexis version of Shepard's covers all cases on Lexis, the United States Code Service, the Code of Federal Regulations, and statutes from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  The Lexis version of Shepard’s also eliminates the use of the history and treatment codes that characterize the print Shepard's. Treatment such as "followed" or "criticized" is indicated by simply including the appropriate word beside the listed citations. Citations are listed by jurisdiction, and in reverse chronological order within each jurisdiction. Headnote numbers, referring back to the headnotes of the cited case, are also listed to help the researcher determine which cases may be most relevant to the issues being researched.

Shepard's provides citations to cases in secondary sources such as law reviews and A.L.R. The Lexis version of cases also includes codes or signals within the text of cases available online to indicate negative treatment, similar to the KeyCite signals that appear on Westlaw. Shepard’s on Lexis also has an alert feature that lets researchers monitor developments relating to a case.

BCite (Bloomberg Law)

BCite is Bloomberg Law’s citation service.  BCite is only available for cases.  It provides a citation analysis summary using headers such as “positive,” “distinguished,” “caution,” and “negative.”  In addition, the table of authorities notes how thoroughly the citing authority deals with the cited case, provides the characterizing reference, and allows for direct viewing of the citing authority.  Like Lexis and Westlaw, Bloomberg Law also has an alert feature that lets researchers when their case has been cited. However, unlike Lexis and Westlaw, BCite does not let researchers limit their results to cases only addressing the issue(s) of particular interest to the researcher.

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