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Levin College of Law

Conducting Legal Research

Resources and tips for conducting legal research .

To Shepardize

If you know the citation for the document you want to Shepardize:

  • In the search bar, type shep: proper Bluebook cite.
  • Example: shep: 410 U.S. 113.

To Shepardize when in a document:

  • Once you have located a document, click “Shepardize.”
  • The Shepardize button is usually at the top of the document.
  • Some types of documents also have a “Shepard’s Report” link on the right. 
  • Remember that different types of documents have different citator information available.

To Validate a Primary Source

For a case, look at the negative citing references that are binding in your jurisdiction to make sure that the point of law you want to use is still good law.

For a statute, look at any legislation that may have impacted the statute section you wish to use AND look at any cases that are binding in your jurisdiction that have interpreted that statute section as unconstitutional or preempted.

Whether you are using Lexis or Westlaw, rely on the signals provided to lead you to those cases and legislation that may have impacted the primary law that you are relying on for your research. See the boxes to the right for more detail about validating a law.

To Expand a Primary Source

You can also use Shepard’s to expand your research:

  • For a case, look at the citing decisions underneath specific headnotes, within a specific jurisdiction, or for a certain analysis.
  • For a statute, look at the analysis, look within a specific jurisdiction, or look at other citing sources to determine if there any other relevant/important secondary sources.

Also see the tab on Using Headnotes, above, for more information about expanding your research.

Shepard's Signals

Shepard’s Signals indicate the treatment that the case has been given by other cases. The signals are defined as follows:

Warning: Negative treatment is indicated for your CASE.
  • Citing references contain strong negative history or treatment for at least one point of law in your case (for example, overruled by or reversed).
  • This does not automatically disqualify a case from use. If the citing reference is from a binding jurisdiction, read it to see if your point of law is affected and if so, how.
Warning: Negative treatment is indicated for your statute.
  • Citing references contain strong negative treatment for the statute section (for example, found unconstitutional or void).
Questioned: Validity questioned by citing reference.
  • Citing references contain treatment that questions the continuing validity or precedential value of your case because of intervening circumstances, including judicial or legislative overruling.
  • If the citing reference is from a binding jurisdiction, read it to see how your case has been impacted.
Caution: Possible negative treatment indicated
  • Citing references contain history or treatment that may have a significant negative impact on your case (for example, limited or criticized by).
  • If the citing reference is from a binding jurisdiction, read it to see how your case has been impacted.
Positive treatment indicated
  • Citing references contain history or treatment that has a positive impact on your case (for example, affirmed or followed by).
Citing references with analysis available
  • Citing references contain treatment of your case that is neither positive nor negative (for example, explained).
Citation information available
  • Citing references are available for your case, but the references do not have history or treatment analysis (for example, the references are law review citations).

How to Update a Case Using Shepard's

To use Shepard's to Update a Case

  • On the right side of the screen of a case, you will see a shorthand Shepard’s.
  • You will need to update your case if you see either of the following:

Under Citing Decisions, there is a red stop sign (Warning); an orange Q (Questioned); a yellow triangle (Caution)

  • OR there is a red stop sign indicating subsequent appellate history is negative

  • Click "Shepardize this document" to get the full Shepard's Report.  At the top left of the screen, you will see:

To update a case, when the case has a red stop sign (Warning), an orange Q (questioned), or a yellow triangle (caution):

  • Click Citing Decisions → Under Narrow By, Analysis →   

  • Narrow by jurisdiction (if necessary) so that you only see cases that are binding in your jurisdiction.
  • Click on and read all of the remaining cases to determine what they say about the case you wish to cite and whether the case you wish to cite is still good law for the point you wish to cite it for.

TIP: When you click into a citing case this way, Lexis's reference navigation tool will allow you to skip directly to the part in the citing case that discusses your case.  Click Jump To, then click the right arrow under Navigate:

To update a case that has negative appellate history, you will follow a slightly different process:

  • Click Subsequent appellate history:

  • You may get several different options.  The best bet is the click the case that has the red square to the left of what the case did:

  • Open the case with the red square. Lexis will automatically scroll you to the first point in the case where your case is cited.
  • Read through and scroll to each part of the decision where your case is mentioned (sometimes, the entire decision will be applicable because it is overruling your entire case).

How to Update a Statute & Shepard's Report for Statutes

When you click "Shepardize this document" to get the full Shepard's Report of a statute, different information will be provided than was provided for cases.  At the top left of the screen, you will see:

Once you have clicked on Citing Decisions or Other Citing Sources, you have the option to further filter the results:

Citing Decisions allow you to Expand. Narrow by:

  • Analysis (what the case said about the statute):
    • Warning (unconstitutional/void)
    • Positive (followed by/constitutional by)
    • Neutral (interpreted by/cited in)
  • Court (both state and/or federal)
  • Search terms within the results
  • Timeline (limit to a specific date)

Other Citing Sources provides different filtering options:

  • Content (law review; court document; treatise; statute; annotation; secondary sources)
    • Note: depending on the citing sources, different filters will be available
  • Search terms within the results
  • Timeline (limit to a specific date)

Shepard's Report for Cases

In a case, you can also use the Shepard's Report to filter Citing Decisions by a variety of options:

Citing Decisions allow you to Expand your case. Narrow By:

  • Analysis (warning; questioned; caution; positive; neutral)
  • Court (both state and/or federal)
  • Discussion (how much the citing decision considers the case)
    • Analyzed: fully considers the case
    • Discussed: some analysis of the case
    • Mentions: brief mention of the case
    • Cited: cites to the case with minimal if any discussion
  • Headnotes (if the citing case cites to a specific headnote)
  • Search terms within the results
  • Timeline (limit to a specific date)

Other Citing Sources provides different filtering options:

  • Content (law review; court document; treatise; statute; annotation; secondary sources)
    • Note: depending on the citing sources, different filters will be available
  • Search terms within the results
  • Timeline (limit to a specific date)