Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Cite-Checker's Toolkit

Even before the renovated Law Library had reopened, Duke’s nine student-edited journals had already begun the process of cite-checking their selected articles. A number of electronic resources make this job easier, and should be useful to cite-checkers as well as any other legal researchers.

Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations: There are several abbreviation dictionaries available in the Law Library’s Reference Collection, but this site (from the University of Cardiff in Wales) can be accessed anywhere at any time. Search by title or by abbreviation to decipher those mysterious citations--always the first step to locating an item.

Finding Legal Materials in PDF: This research guide was created in response to the library’s renovation, since 95% of the print collection was moved into inaccessible off-site storage. It remains a useful guide to locating the full text of many common legal materials, including primary (cases, statutes, legislative history materials) and secondary (law reviews, newspapers, and books) sources.

Electronic Bluebook: Multiple copies of the Bluebook are available in the library’s Reserve collection, but wouldn’t it be nice to have it always at your fingertips? The makers of the Bluebook launched an online subscription version in the spring of 2008. It allows users to keyword search the text of the Bluebook and create highlighted annotations for future reference. Prices range from $25 for a one-year subscription to $55 for the entire three years of law school.

Zotero may be more useful for writing that student note than for cite-checking, but merits a mention here. This free Firefox extension allows you to save, organize, and search your online research bookmarks, and even provides citations to saved articles in Bluebook format (with a free word processor integration add-on).

NOTE: A commercial citation management software called EndNote also supports Bluebook citation style. EndNote is available free to current members of the Duke University community, and can be downloaded at