Mastering the Lawless Science of Our Law: The Subjectivity of Citators

Recorded On: 07/18/2023

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Program recordings from the 2023 AALL Annual Meeting & Conference were sponsored by LexisNexis. Please note the opinions shared during the programs represent the views of the speakers and not of AALL.

Citators have sustained the American common law for two centuries. Yet citators are tools created by humans and are, accordingly, subjective. For instance, in the years leading up to Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, Shepard's assigned a red signal to Roe v. Wade while KeyCite attached a yellow flag to the same case. This program provides attendees with background about the historical development of citators, insight into the way determinations about the validity of cases are made, and strategies for conveying the subjectivity of citators to patrons.


Any and all law librarians who wish to gain a deeper understanding of citators. This program is especially useful for those who have an instructional role in their law library, whether in a law school, government, or firm library.


  • Participants will learn about the historical development of citators as essential legal research tools in a common law system.
  • Participants will gain a basic understanding about how modern legal research vendors make determinations about the validity of cases.
  • Participants will learn ways to convey the subjectivity of citators to their patrons.


  • Cindy Dabney (she/her/hers), Outreach Services and Foreign, Comparative & International Law Librarian and Lecturer in Law, Indiana University Maurer School of Law
  • Aaron S. Kirschenfeld, Clinical Associate Professor of Law and Digital Initiatives Law Librarian, University of North Carolina School of Law


  • Nicholas Mignanelli, Head of Reference and Lecturer in Legal Research, Yale Law School


  • Grace Lo, Reference Librarian, Stanford Law Library

AALL BODY OF KNOWLEDGE DOMAINS: Research + AnalysisTeaching + Training

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The Subjectivity of Citators
Open to view video.
Open to view video.