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Comparison of Features of Shepard's on LexisNexis and KeyCite on Westlaw

Prepared by Diane Murley, SIU Law Library, and updated 10/2006

Note: This chart only covers Shepard's and KeyCite of cases. However, the features are similar for statutes, regulations, and other authorities.

Basic terminology:

  • "Cited Case": the case you have found and whose value you are trying to determine.
  • "Citing References" or "Citing Decisions": authorities that have mentioned the Cited Case.
  • "History" information: what happened to the Cited Case itself?
  • "Treatment" information: what have other, later cases said about the Cited Case?

Basic Uses of a Citator:

  1. To check precedential value of a case ("Is it still good law?"). You must do this before relying on a case.
  2. To find other authorities on the same subject by using a case you already have. This is optional. Whether you should do it depends upon where you are in your research.
Task Shepard's on LexisNexis KeyCite on Westlaw
  • From the Cited Case – click on blue Shepardize™ link or the Shepard's® signal (e.g., red octagon or orange Q) at top of case.
  • From anywhere in LexisNexis – click on the light gray Shepard's® tab.
  • From the Cited Case – click on KeyCite signal (e.g., red or yellow flag) at top of case or "Links for" tab at top of left column.
  • From anywhere in Westlaw – click on blue KeyCite link in gray bar across top.
  • Choose KWIC or "Shepard's® for Validation" to check precedential value of Cited Case.
  • Choose Full or "Shepard's® for Research" to find authorities that have mentioned the Cited Case.
  • Click on "Full History" to check the precedential value of the Cited Case.
  • Click on "Direct History (Graphical View)" to see flowchart of court decisions in Cited Case.
  • Click on "Citing References" to find other authorities that have mentioned Cited Case.
  • To find the meaning of a signal (e.g., red octagon or orange Q) used by Shepard's to indicate the subsequent history and treatment of a case, click on blue "Legend" link on left end of bottom tool bar.
  • To find the meaning of a term or phrase (e.g., "reversed by" or "overruled by") used by Shepard's to characterize how a Citing Decision has treated the Cited Case, click on the term or phrase in the body of the Shepard's report.
  • The reason for the KeyCite signal is summarized at the top of the KeyCite box in the left column.
  • Click on the KeyCite logo in the left column to see definitions of all KeyCite signals and symbols, as well as an explanation of the information provided in a KeyCite report.
Reading the Report

Shepard's Summary:

  1. Lists subsequent appellate history, types of analysis, other sources, and LexisNexis headnotes included in Shepard's report.
  2. Click on any item to go directly to those cites only.
  3. Use "Term" arrows in bottom right-hand corner to move from cite to cite within the category chosen.

Split Screen Display – Left Frame – "Links for" tab:

  1. Explanation of KeyCite signal.
  2. Links for Full History, Direct History (Graphical View), Citing References, Monitor with KeyCite Alert.
  3. Additional Links for Full-Text Document, ResultsPlus (Westlaw secondary sources), Table of Authorities, West Key Numbers.
Reading the Report

Below the Shepard's Summary box:

  1. Prior History – decisions or orders in the same litigation before the Cited Case.
  2. Subsequent Appellate History – decisions or orders in the same litigation after the Cited Case.

Split Screen Display – Right Frame – Full History:

  1. Direct History.
  2. Negative Citing References (e.g., distinguishing or overruling case).
  3. Court Documents (e.g., briefs of both parties on appeal).
Reading the Report

Citing Decisions – complete listing of Citing Decisions as well as annotated statutes and secondary authorities:

  1. Arrangement:
    1. courts within forum jurisdiction (by date, latest first);
    2. federal court decisions (U.S. Supreme Court first);
    3. decisions from other states (alphabetically by state);
    4. annotated statutes; and
    5. secondary authorities: e.g., periodicals, ALR.
  2. Each item is characterized by Shepard's using an "editorial treatment code" (e.g., followed, distinguished) – click on this code to get a definition.
  3. Full citation to the Citing Decision is provided, along with pinpoint citation(s) to where Cited Case is mentioned in Citing Decision.
    1. In most instances, these are links to the Citing Decision.
    2. To return to Shepard's report, click on "Return to Shepard's" link at top.

Split Screen Display – Right Frame – Citing References:

Complete listing of "Citing References" (including negative cases, positive cases, secondary sources, court documents).

  1. Within each section, cases are arranged in descending order of "Depth of Treatment" stars – more stars mean Citing Reference has more discussion of Cited Case.
  2. Full citation of Citing Reference is given, including pinpoint page on which Cited Case appears.
  3. Can link directly to a Citing Reference by clicking on blue number OR to a KeyCite report on the Citing Reference by clicking on KeyCite signal next to it.
  4. Use of purple quotation mark (”) indicates that Citing Reference quotes from Cited Case.
Restricting or Limiting Results

Choose one of these restriction options (blue links near center top):

  1. All Neg – displays only negative Treatment of the Cited Case;
  2. All Pos – displays only positive Treatment of the Cited Case; or
  3. Focus™ – Restrict By:
    1. Use if you wish to narrow down the information provided in the Shepard's report for the case.
    2. Can limit by: type of analysis, your Focus terms, jurisdictions, headnotes, and dates.


Limit KeyCite Display (small button near bottom left of right-hand frame) – allows researcher to limit references displayed by:

  1. Headnotes,
  2. Locate,
  3. Jurisdiction,
  4. Date,
  5. Document Type,
  6. Depth of Treatment, or
  7. Combination of limitations.
Table of Authorities—cases, statutes, and other authorities upon which Cited Case relied

Table of Authorities (blue "TOA" link at top of display, after citation to Cited Case):

  1. Lists all of the cases that were relied upon (i.e., cited) by the Cited Case.
  2. Can link to each of these cases OR to the pinpoint page in the Cited Case where they were cited OR to the Shepard's report for each of these cases.
  3. to get back to the Table of Authorities, click on "Return to TOA" (blue link at top of case).

Table of Authorities link in left frame:

  1. Lists all cases cited in the Cited Case (helps to determine whether the Cited Case was relying on authority that still has precedential value).
  2. Can link to each of these cases OR to the pinpoint page in the Cited Case where they were cited OR to the KeyCite report for each of these cases.
  3. To return to different part of KeyCite report, click on appropriate link in left frame.

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