STUDENT SUCCESS & More on How Many Citations Grad Students Should Use (plus APA tips)

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

A student once asked a germane question about why outside sources are required in graduate school, even for student analysis of their ministry context.  The student asked, “For example: last weeks application paper was about charting and assessing our own church’s organizational history in light of the article you wrote.  My first question is that I need help getting a clearer picture of how these sources are to be used since the issue isn’t so much about what experts are saying, but rather about the matters of fact determined from our organizations history.”

That is a good question. The answer is that every assignment will have a different thrust, but that each assignment must bring you closer to being a “master” of the writings in your chosen graduate field.  As such, each assignment requires you find what other authors/researchers are saying about the topic.  Here are a couple easy ways you can do this.

1.  The topic of one week (the leadership/management of sub-congregations week) was based upon my writings and research on the topic.  But, my article provides you with many footnotes, to help you see what others are saying about this too (and where to find their writings).  So, use the required readings each week as a starting place to follow the footnote trail, or look up the authors who are mentioned, to dig deeper into the subject.

2.  As I mentioned in the earlier posting in this forum titled, “How May Citations Should Graduate Students Use Each Week?” you can use Off Campus Library Services to quickly scan books and articles on these themes.  In addition, you may want to scan articles in related fields.  For instance, when we are discussing organizational behavior, you may want to scan journals on management for the word “church.”

The end result is that the required readings for each assignment are not where you should stop, but they are a jumping off place into more investigation.

The student when on to say, “The other part is that I am finding it difficult to imagine how one crams 5-8 sources in a 300 word paper or even a 500 word paper for that matter.”

The 300 or 500 word paper refers to the body of the paper which is basically your analysis with supporting in-text citations (more on this shortly).  And, APA formatting accommodates this research while keeping the body of the paper concise through several methods.

1.  In-text citations: APA uses parenthetical in-text citations rather than extensive footnotes.  For example you might write, “So you can see that our church is what George Hunter has described as “ a congregation of congregations” (Hunter, 1979, p. 63).”  This brief parenthetical citation is much simpler and faster than creating a footnote.  For examples of in-text citations see this helpful link (which you can link to via the Off Campus Library white button at the top right-hand of each Blackboard page): http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/02/

2.  Abstract page:  Not all professors require an abstract but I have found that students say they benefit from creating this short overview of their findings (remember this is a concise overview of your key points, including your conclusions).  Therefore I require students create a short abstract.  For examples of abstracts see this link: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/  The abstract page usually allows you to dispense with an introduction and get right to the meat of your analysis.

3. Appendixes:  Appendixes are a great place to put charts, graphs, interviews, bulleted points, church documents, etc. that otherwise might fill up the body of your paper.  Be sure to reference the source of your appendix material if you did not write it specifically for this paper.  But, appendixes will allow you to put in a great deal of supporting material without filling up the body of your paper (which is where your analysis should be).

I must for students’ sake and the sake of the missio Dei encourage my mentees to reach for the standards of this higher degree. I want to help students expand their knowledge beyond what their textbooks say, and into the research of other leaders and writers … so at graduation I can celebrate with them an attainment of mastery of our important topic of missional leadership.