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Source Pulling and Cite Checking for Journal Members


Cite checking is primarily about making sure the sources cited in the footnotes support the author's associated claims. Basically, you're helping make sure the article is "good," as in accurate (the citation content and format leads the reader to the correct source), valid (the source actually supports the author's claim/statement), non-plagiarized (every proposition is properly credited), and useful (the citation provides value to the reader). 

Try these questions as you review both the article text (above the line text) and the footnotes:

  1. Is a citation needed? 
  2. Does the cited authority support the statement made in the text?
  3. Are the introductory signals and parentheticals appropriate according to Bluebook Rule 1? If none present, are one or both needed?
  4. Does the citation include all necessary content (including pincites) and is it formatted properly? (per Bluebook/your journal's style manual)

All cite checking involves the use of a citation system. The Bluebook is one of the most common, but there are others, including ALWD, MLA, APA, the California Style Manual, etc. Check with your journal to ensure you refer to the appropriate system, and make sure you review any additional style rules specific to your journal; these are usually provided during editor onboarding. For more details on citation systems, see the boxes below. 

The Bluebook

The Bluebook is the most common system of legal citation used for journal articles. Copies of the Bluebook are available to use in the library from the Reference office on the first floor. The Bluebook is also available online; your journal may provide a subscription, or you purchase subscriptions at different price points for 1, 2, and 3-year access. Currently, a subscription provides access to both the 20th and 21st editions of the Bluebook. The content is the same as in the print version, except there is no index in the online version (full-text searching is available in lieu). 

Notes on the 21st Edition & Table 2

The 21st edition of the Bluebook, released in July 2020, makes several changes from the 20th edition. For a summary of the changes, see the Preface to the 21st Edition on the Bluebook's website. Table T2, covering foreign jurisdictions, has been removed from the print edition but is freely available online: Link to T2 on the Bluebook's website. 

Using the Bluebook

  • Rules 1-9 cover general citation and style rules, such as when to use signals, how to treat quotations, correct use of supra, etc.
  • Rules 10-21 cover specific types of sources; for example magazines fall under Rule 16, and statutes under Rule 12
  • Table 1 includes lots of substantive information arranged by jurisdiction; what reporters to cite for a specific state, etc. 
  • Table 2 covers similar information as T1, but for foreign jurisdictions. It is available online, not in the print Bluebook
  • Tables 3, 4, and 5 also contain substantive info on various topics
  • Tables 6-16 provide abbreviations: T6 for common words and T10 for geographic terms, T12 for months, and T13 for institutions 

If you have a print copy, use the back cover to jump quickly to rules or tables, and use the inside of the front cover for quick examples of commonly used rules. If you use the online version, go ahead and pin rules you often use for easy access. 

But the Bluebook Is Unclear... Additional Resources

Sometimes The Bluebook can be ambiguous or does not contain a good example for how to cite a source you may encounter. In many situations, you may need to consult your law journal's internal style manual (e.g., The Redbook). Additionally, the following resources are designed to offer guidance on using The Bluebook

Find Similar Citations in Peer Journals

You will encounter some citations that do not seem similar to any of the examples provided in The Bluebook. For guidance, one trick is to look at the practices of the law reviews that edit The Bluebook (Columbia Law Review, Harvard Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and Yale Law Journal) as well as the past practices of your law journal to see how they have cited your source in previously published articles. Of course, the editors of these law journals may have been incorrect in their decision on how to properly cite the source, but it is still often helpful to see how other editors have interpreted the rules.

To easily search the content of other law journals for your source, you may wish to create a group of peer journals to search in HeinOnline, Lexis, or Westlaw. For example, on Westlaw:

1. After logging in, search for Harvard Law Review in the universal search bar at the top of the page; as you type, the journal name will autopopulate as a suggestion and you can click on it.

2. Once on the Harvard Law Review page, look under the journal name for the star icon; click "Add to Favorites."

Screenshot from Westlaw showing the Add to Favorites button under a law journal title

3. In the popup, click the "Create New Group" button and type in the new Group Name "Peer Journals," then Save. You'll be returned to the Add to Favorites box where you can check the box for Peer Journals and click Save to add Harvard Law Review.  

Screenshot from Westlaw of Create New Group button 

Screenshot of Westlaw Check Box for Peer Journals

4. Repeat the process for the Yale Law Journal, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and the Columbia Law Review, as well as your own law journal.

5. Return to the Westlaw home page and scroll down to the second box where you will see a tab for "Favorites." You should see the journals listed under "Peer Journals" in the "Favorites" section. You can now easily search the content within these specific law journals.

Screenshot of Westlaw Favorites box

7. After finding an article that cites your source or a source similar to it in a law journal through Westlaw, you can check to see how the citation looks in the final, published version by looking at a copy of the article in the HeinOnline Law Journal Library.

Webpages are frequently modified or taken down which is problematic when it comes to online sources, as URLs in citations can turn into dead links/404 errors before the article is even published. helps resolve this "link rot" problem. allows users to make archival copies of webpages and store them, creating a reliable URL. Future readers will always be able to see what a webpage looked like when the Perma link was created, even if the original webpage subsequently changes or disappears. allows authors and student editors to feel more confident relying on electronic sources in citations.

Check out the guide for more complete information, but at a glance: 

To create a Perma link:

  1. Log in to your account. (If you don't have one, ask your editor to email Heather Joy at
  2. Copy and paste the URL of the page you wish to preserve into the box, and then select the correct folder (e.g., your journal's folder). Click the blue "Create Perma Link" button.
  3. After a few seconds, you will see your record. Copy the new Perma link URL (shown in blue near the top of the screen) into the citation by placing it in brackets following the URL, pursuant to Bluebook Rule 18.2.1(d). New Perma links become permanent after 24 hours.

Occasionally, Perma links will be marked as private records. This frequently happens with resources that are behind a paywall, such as articles from the New York Times. Only the creator of the link and the organization that controls the account will be able to see the content at the Perma link, but you should still create Perma links for these sources to archive those webpages. If necessary you can also create Perma links for PDFs.