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Citator Basics


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What is a Citator?

Picture of a pen and a checklist

Black's Law Dictionary Defines "Citator" as: “A catalogued list of cases, statutes, and other legal sources showing the subsequent history, and current precedential value of those sources. Citators allow researchers to verify the authenticity of a precedent and to find additional sources relating to a given subject.”  Black’s Law Dictionary 297 (10th ed. 2014).

Citators are one of your most useful tools to help with your research. With how swiftly the law changes citators allow you to verify that your research is as current as possible and you are using the correct law. Lexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg all have their own citators and different ways to use them to make your research easier. 

When to use a Citator

  • At the Beginning
    • Use a citator at the beginning of your research to find other cases and materials that are related to your topic. This can be a great method to get a better understanding of your topic and to find sources you can use in your research. 
  • Throughout
    • Using a citator throughout will not only help you find sources you may have missed in your original search but also verify that you are using good law. It is important to check your research as you go along, otherwise you may spend hours on research that is no longer good law.
  • At the End
    • Using a citator at the end allows you to be sure that you are using the most current law and that you haven't missed anything in your research. When the citator continues to bring up sources you have already used, this is a good indicator that your research is complete.

In other words, use a citator at every step of your research!

Important Terminology


Each citator will have its own way to let you know what to look for in the case. You will find in depth definitions of each of these on the subsequent pages of this guide. However there are some consistent terms throughout. See below for explanations of those terms.


  • Negative Treatment: Shows cases that negatively impact your case either in subsequent history or in other citing decisions.

  • HistorySubsequent or previous case history.

  • Citing References:  Materials such as cases or articles that have cited your case.

  • Table of Authorities:  List of cases cited by your case.



  • Citing Decisions: List of decisions that cite your case or material. 

  • Other Citing Sources: List of citing Law Reviews, Treatises, Annotated Statutes, Regulations, Restatements and other sources.

  • History: Subsequent or previous case history.

  • Table of Authorities : List of cases cited by your case.