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Locating Legal Information in Primary and Secondary Resources: #3: Introduction to Shepard's Citators

How to use specific legal resources.

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Introduction to Shepard's Citators

Howard W. Hunter Law Library

Legal Research Guide #3 

Introduction to Shepard’s Citators & KeyCite


Shepard’s citators and KeyCite help us check the validity and history of court opinions, statutes, and other legal materials. A citator indicates which legal materials have cited the case (or other legal material) you are interested in.

Shepardizing cases (as well as statutes and other legal authorities) is important because a citation must be reliable.  Lawyers and judges rely on previously decided cases to support their arguments or opinions.  If the case cited is no longer good law, reliance on the case is faulty. 

Citators are also an important research tool because they allow researchers to see other legal materials that have supported or disagreed with the case/statute/etc. you are interested in.

Online Shepard’s and KeyCite

Both Westlaw and Lexis, as well as some other online services, provide citators. LexisNexis Academic has Shepard’s and Westlaw Patron Access has KeyCite.

You can get to LexisNexis Academic by clicking here.  BYU students and faculty have off-campus access, while all others must use Lexis Academic on the law library's computers.

You can get to KeyCite by using the Westlaw Patron Access terminal near the 2nd floor reference desk.

Once you have logged on and selected Shepard’s or KeyCite, just type in the citation to the case, code, etc. and the citing references will appear. A red symbol next to a reference will indicate that a case has been overturned or reversed. A yellow symbol next to a reference means it may have been distinguished or criticized.

Feel free to seek additional assistance at the reference desk.

How to Use Shepard’s Print Citators

While print citators are rarely used anymore, here are directions for using them.

1. Choose the correct citator.

To Shepardize a case or statute in print, look up the case or statute in the appropriate citator. The names of the Shepard’s Citators correspond to the names of the reporters.  For example, if you are dealing with a case found in the Pacific Reporter, you should use Shepard’s Pacific Citations.

2. Collect all the volumes and supplements that may contain citations to your case.

The range of citations reported in each volume is indicated on the spine.  To make sure you have all the volumes you need to Shepardize, look at the most current supplement.  These softbound pamphlets are located at the end of each set.  The date is on the upper right hand corner and should be no more than two months old.  The front cover of the most recent supplement of the set you are using has a list entitled “What Your Library Should Contain.”  You must have all volumes listed there in order to Shepardize properly.

3. Look for the volume reference that corresponds to the volume of the reporter in which your case is reported.

Cases are organized by volume and page numbers. Statutes, etc., are organized by title, section, and other subdivision references. Start with the first volume that analyzes your case or statute.  The volume or section number is indicated on the top line of each page. (If you have a problem, refer to the table of contents at the front of the volume.)

4. Look for all references to your case or statute.

For cases, the initial case page will appear in boldface type. (Be sure that your page number is under the correct volume number.) If you do not find references to your case or statute,  that means that there were no citations during the time period covered by that volume or supplement.

5. Interpret the Shepard’s citation.

Under each reference to your case or statute, you will find a list of citing references.

If a case citation in the list is surrounded by parentheses, this indicates that it is a parallel cite.  A parallel cite means that there is an additional publication of the same case by a different publisher.

In a Shepard’s citation the page number given is often not the beginning page number of the decision but the page in the citing case on which the cited case is referenced.

Any reference without an abbreviation in front of it means that the citing source only mentions your case or statute.  References with abbreviations in front of them vary in meaning.  There is an abbreviation key in the front of  Shepard’s volumes.  For example an “o” in front of the reference indicates that a case was overruled in the citing authority. An “r” indicates that a case was reversed. A “U” indicates that a statute was ruled unconstitutional.

6. Repeat the above process in all other applicable volumes.


(Last Revised 3/6/2013)


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