Collova Citator Exercise

  • Bookmark and Share

Jodi L. Collova
Reference & Electronic Services Librarian, Adjunct Professor
Golden Gate University Law Library
536 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94108

I designed this exercise for an advanced legal research course. The case used, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Dist., 393 U.S. 503 (1969), is a famous U.S. Supreme Court case with thousands of citing references. Some students lacking sophistication with citators initially looked at the vast number of cases citing Tinker and felt unsure of how to review the results. Students had to narrow the results by jurisdiction (U.S. Supreme Court) and by treatment type (negative treatment only), which narrowed the number of citing cases considerably. After students worked on the exercise in small groups, I facilitated a class discussion in which members of each group shared how they used their assigned platform (Westlaw, Lexis Advance, or Bloomberg Law) to determine the status of the case. I emphasized the importance of considering whether cases listed with “negative treatment” apply to the particular issue being researched, rather than blindly relying on the signal assigned by the citator. In addition to teaching use of citators and reviewing jurisdictional authority, this exercise also demonstrates differences between research platforms (WestlawNext, Lexis Advance, and Bloomberg Law) and teaches students about viewing research platforms critically. Moreover, it allows students to practice working collaboratively, a necessary lawyering skill often underemphasized in law school.