STUDENT SUCCESS & How Do You Cite Yourself?

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 10/4/15.

A recurring question I receive is “How do you cite yourself.”  This is because in our highly practical courses, my students weekly interview colleagues and non-churchgoers as part of their “Action Research.”

During this exercise students often wonder how and if they should cite themselves, especially if they cite verbatim homework they previous submitted in another course. I suggest they do, because submitting something verbatim in current homework, that came from previous homework for another course, could look like a student is trying to pass something off as new work.  When actually, this is just cut-and-pasting old work.

Now, there is nothing wrong with utilizing old work, as long as it is germane and relevant. But, the key is to let the instructor know (and the reader know) that it was written for a previous assignment.

But, if you are copying something that was written for the current course, just a previous assignment, then you do not need to cite yourself.  However, there are two caveats here:

  • I know your previous homework for this course because I have read it. Thus, you do not need to cite yourself if the homework was for the current course.
  • However, if your appendix is from a previous assignment, even in the current course, I want you to cite it. This is because I want people to see (as well as the student) how each week’s homework has built upon the previous week.

So, here are the APA rules for self-citation.

From a paper you submitted:

Thus, quoting your own previous homework for another course would be similar to quoting from an unpublished dissertation (see )

Lastname, F. N. (Year). Title of paper. (Unpublished master of divinity paper). Name of Institution, Location.

From an online forum or discussion room:

Also, here is how you would quote from an “online forum” or discussion:

From an email or forum posting:

And finally, here is how you would cite an email or personal communication:

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):

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:  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.

FORMATTING & An excellent visual source for APA formatting.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  Our seminary students write their papers in APA format, which I have found much easier than the typical Turabian Style required in older, more traditional seminaries.  And, my alma mater (go Boilers) has a helpful APA formatting site with many helpful illustrations of pages formatted correctly.  I encourage students looking for an easy, helpful and visual guide to APA style (which is one of the easiest writing and citing styles) to check out the Purdue site here:

339436(pic of another Purdue alum & Christ follower)

STUDENT SUCCESS & Hints Regarding the Parameters of End-of-Week Papers for My Students

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 8/27/15.

For students in my courses, I like to put in one easy-to-find place my expectations regarding their end-of-week papers.  If you are one of my students (or just interested in APA formatting) this is the place for you.

The end-of-week papers will (usually) be summary documents that you will keep to guide you on your journey into more effective leadership and evangelism.  Here are some parameters:

These papers should be in APA formatting.  Below is a link to a chart that contains “examples” of APA Styles for various books, articles and references.  If you are wondering about how to correctly format an in-text citation or a reference, this downloadable “STYLE GUIDE” has almost everything listed.  Put this URL in your browser to download it:   This was created by Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab.  Go Boilermakers! (My alma mater.)  You can see examples of how to format:

  • References (pages 1-7 of the chart)
  • In-text citations (bottom of page 7 through page 12).
  • And remember, title page, abstract page, appendixes and citation pages do not count toward your paper page limit.
  • A note about abstracts: Typically these are 3/4 of a page in length. Yet students sometimes wonder how they can have the depth needed in 3/4 of a page. This of course is accomplished by re-editing an abstract until it is a tightly edited summary (i.e. abstraction) of their main points and conclusions.

Sometimes students want to know how much I must mark down for late homework submissions.  And, I know that sometimes such tardiness is not the fault of the student, but is rather an consequence of computer problems, family emergencies, etc.  Thus, let me give you a short overview of the guidelines that fairness dictates I adhere to in scoring late homework.

  • Is it lost in cyberspace? (No penalty.)
  • It was eaten by your dog? (Penalty for dog only.)
  • It was eaten by your computer?  (Meaning it was not sent due to computer or Internet problems, and again no penalty.)
  • You have extenuating circumstances beyond your control (family or job emergency) of which you made me aware? (No penalty again.)
  • Or you just have been unable to submit it in time. (Sorry, fairness dictates a penalty of 2% per day – also tell me how many days late is was, I trust you. See the next paragraph for details.)

Again, I realize many of my students work another job. So, I try to be flexible.  Thus, I have a late policy that is less than what most students expect.  I only grade down 2% a day for late papers. So, that means if you need an extra day to work on a paper you can take the extra time and you might only get a 94 instead of a 96.  However, I CANNOT GIVE FEEDBACK ON LATE PAPERS (capitals are not because I am shouting, but for emphasis 🙂

  • Please be aware that if homework is late without extenuating circumstances that I will not be able to give you feedback on your weekly homework. That is because of the extensive grading I do for all students. And, out of fairness I must give feedback to those that submitted their papers on time. However, if there’s extenuation circumstances I will definitely be glad to lower the penalty but I cannot guarantee you will get feedback.
  • And as mentioned above, fairness dictates a penalty of 2% per day, but I can reduce this for extenuating circumstances beyond your control. Please let me know when you submit it.
  • Also, this is very important. TELL ME HOW MANY DAYS LATE IT WAS (again, not shouting – just for emphasis), or I will just assume it was the full seven days. I trust you.

END-OF-WEEK PAPERS: Their Grading & Length
Most weeks an end-of-week paper will be due by Thursday 11:59pm. Like your discussions these end-of-week papers should cite relevant outside readings which support your observations. Similar to the discussion parameters, the graduate school student is expected to be skimming several outside books each week and bringing them to bear upon their weekly papers (with citations).  Also, don’t forget to bring into your papers relevant ideas from other course textbooks.  Therefore for B level work, the student should each week be utilizing and citing in their weekly papers, one to two textbooks and two to three outside references.  Remember however, this is for B level work.  A person seeking a higher grade would be expected to do better.  And, unless specified differently by your professor, your end-of-week papers should comply with APA formatting rules.

As you can see, the quantitative aspect of the paper is purposely left vague. That is because your task is to address each week’s paper with critical thinking, scholarly support and realistic application. For some this will be longer than others, depending upon the complexity of your organization. I know you may feel it is typical for a professor to say, “take as many pages as you need,” but what we are saying with this motto is that quality is more important than quantity. So, take the space needed to address each week’s paper fully without being verbose.

But though I want to stress quality, I will try and give you some guidance by giving you a page range of above average papers I have received. Not counting the title page, abstract, citation page or appendixes (which in APA-style do not count toward your point total) I have received above average papers that varied in length from two pages to 12 pages. My guess is that an average was about 4-6 pages.

So I hope that gives you come guidance without overly stressing the quantitative aspect of your papers. Remember, the keys are to use critical thinking mad scholarly research to craft effective plans for leading ministry today.

Because my students are usually in an accelerated degree program, final papers cannot be accepted after the final day of class. Please see my other postings on this and understand why my hands are tied by university and seminary policies.

FORMATTING & How to Format Headings in APA Style

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/17/15.

Currently I have two courses in which my students are writing their final papers.  And so I thought it might be a good time to share some “hints” regarding formatting headings which can help a writer better organize their paper. The following insights on formatting of “headings” are from BarCharts, a division of QuickStudy Academic which publishes good overviews of APA formatting:

Headings.  How the parts of your paper work together.

1.  Show how your paper is organized by indicating which parts are equally important and how each part relates to the others.

2.  Some tips about using headings.

  • Don’t use a heading for the introduction of your paper
  • Use the same heading for topics of equal importance.
  • Be sure that each heading is followed by at least two subheadings, if not at all; don’t divide your topic or subtopic into a single entity.
  • Don’t label headings with numbers or letters as in an outline.

I also encourage students to surf the Internet and find APA guideline sites (such as OWL, the Online Writing Lab at Purdue University) that can help you master APA.

My students know that I am relatively gracious regarding their mastery of a particular formatting, such as APA style. But, I want my students as they travel their academic journey to be prepared when they encounter some instructors who require it more strictly.

Smith, T. (2003). APA/MLA guidelines. Boca Raton: Florida: BarCharts,

BREVITY & A Rationale for Conciseness (It Gets Your Articles Read)

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/17/15.

In my courses I usually give my students a page range for their papers that is usually a bit shorter than they want to write.  But, I believe part for the learning experience is learning how to edit for conciseness.  And, I know from personal experience this is hard to do.  Let me explain.

When I wrote my second book, Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change and What You Can Do About It (Abingdon Press, 2002), I felt the topic (a process model of how group exits occur) required more depth.  I thus, submitted a book of approximately 270 pages (with footnotes).  However, the publisher came back and asked me to trim 70 pages!

SP_Sm_PixThis hit me right in the gut.  I had many good ideas, illustrations and insights in those 70 pages.  And now, they would be lost forever.  It was like cutting off part of me.  Yet, I had no option.

And, once the 70 pages were gone (72 actually) the book was much, much better.  Sure, there were things I had written, and insights I had suggested that would never be read.  But now the overall tenor of the book was better, and more people would read it and more people would benefit from its ideas.  It was hard to do, but it was helpful for my message.

But it was not due to this experience that I started requiring students to be brief as well.  I had already required students to be concise, for I realized as a former senior editor of a national leadership magazine that brevity gets writings read.  Yet with the illustration above, it had been brought home to me personally.  This exercise with my publisher had made me a better writer, thinker and communicator.  And, since my courses are about making students better thinkers and scholars, brevity and succinctness assist in the process.

I do remind students that charts, figures and graphs can be included in Appendixes.  And these Appendixes do not count (nor do title pages or abstracts) toward your page total.

And so, I require my students to reread their papers and edit it a few times (I personally do three edits – one electronically, then I print it out and edit with a red pen, then I give it a final electronic edit).

The result will be a paper you will be proud to share, and one which will have greater opportunity to be read/published and thus spread your good insights to others who need them.