STUDENT SUCCESS & How Many Citations Should Graduate Students Use in Their Papers?

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 9/25/15.

The “syllabus” I post for every student says that “graduate school is a research laboratory … (and) you should look up pertinent insights from authors and researchers, applying their insights to your situation.”   Let me explain and give examples for budding, new graduate students.

This statement means you should be reading pertinent sections in your textbooks and in outside sources each week that apply to that week’s topic, and citing them in your postings and papers.  Here is what the syllabus says:

c.   Relevant research – Graduate school is a research laboratory.  There are two ways you will go about this. First, you should look up pertinent insights from authors and researchers, applying their insights to your situation.  You should also suggest to fellow students how the insights you are discovering will help them.  To find these insights, the required textbooks are a good place to start. But, don’t stop there.  Look in books and articles from your personal library, the community library, via online databases (such as those on the IWU Off Campus Library site) and apply the ideas you are discovering to your organization and to the organizations of other students.  Secondly, relevant research means that each week you will be applying the ideas you are discovering to your own organization and reporting back the outcomes.  Thus, your posts will reflect your growing mastery of the field under discussion, including both the literature and personal application.

Students often ask “how many” books should be cited to meet this research expectation.  Therefore to help, I’ve suggested that generally for average work you might cite one to two (1-2) textbooks and two to three (2-3) outside sources in each discussion forum and in each paper.  Above average work might cite two to three (2-3) textbooks and three to five (3-5) outside sources in each discussion forum and each paper.  But, don’t worry too much about this.  It is easy today with the Internet to quickly find sources that will expand your knowledge base.  In fact, the above section on “Relevant research” suggests easy ways to discover useful research.

Therefore, since graduate school is a research environment, you probably should be researching in your textbooks and in other books on the topic for pertinent ideas each week.  You will probably want to quote and cite a few textbooks in each week’s discussions and a few more outside sources too.  And, you should do the same for the end-of-week papers.

Now, you are probably thinking, “can you go into even more detail?”  Let me give you some general parameters that I have noticed that students in the past have tended to utilize.

In forum discussions:

B-level work = the student quotes 1-2 textbooks and 2-3 outside sources in the forum discussions (this means spread among all of the student’s discussions in one week’s forum, the student cites 1-2 textbooks and 2-3 outside sources)

A level work = the student quotes 2-3 textbooks and 3-5 outside sources in the forum discussions.

In application papers:

B-level work = the student quotes 1-2 textbooks and 2-3 outside sources in their application paper.

A level work = the student quotes 2-3 textbooks and 3-5 outside sources in their application paper.

The same books and articles can be used between the forum and the paper. But, they should be relevant quotes.

Thus, start doing a bit of sleuthing in your library, the library of friends, the “Off Campus Library Service” (click on the white button at the top-right of each BlackBoard screen), http://www.ChurchHealth.wiki and on the Internet regarding what other experts are saying about each week’s topic.  Then cite their thoughts in your forum postings, your discussions with others and in your papers.  I want to ensure that you are not just following one way of doing things, but that you are becoming a “master” of the critical topics of church leadership.