STUDENT SUCCESS & How combining multiple ideas into a new plan shows higher levels of thinking. #BloomsTaxonomy

Commentary by Professor B: Students sometimes ask how many resources they should be using in their classroom discussion and their homework. I recently responded to a student that “the real key is to show that you’re developing ideas from a number of sources.” Here is the reason why this is important in graduate school:


I’ve given some suggestions, but there really are no requirements. The suggestions I have given are: one to two textbooks and 2 to 3 outside sources for a B. So a person with an A might use more than that.

But the real key is to show that you’re developing ideas from a number of sources.

So as you go through your discussions during the week, be checking around the Internet and finding juried sources that give you ideas how to tackle each week’s problems.

Then when you get to your final paper you will have a cadre of ideas you can synthesize together to create a plan. This synthesis fulfills what is called level five of Bloom’s taxonomy. (See Bloom’s taxonomy says that higher levels demonstrate higher degrees of critical thinking. And the next to the highest level is synthesis: combining several ideas together into something unique that works for your context.

As you know, I have put together a research site ( with links to almost 3000 articles that you can search by keyword. This should help you with a shortcut to juried research that other students have found or that I have found.

But I’m here to help … so I don’t want to be inflexible with the number of sources. Rather just connected with different sources on each week’s topic and create a synthesize plan. That shows not only that you created a unique solution, but also that you’r using higher levels of thinking to do it.

Thanks for the question.

Here to help.

Professor B.

STUDENT SUCCESS & What you should cite in a book or resource

Students sometimes cite scholarly sources in a manner in which it is unclear to the professor that the student can apply the tools in the book they are citing.  To help students understand how to cite a book and specifically what exactly they should cite from an resource, I have filmed this short introduction.

©️Bob Whitesel 2017, used by permission only.

keywords: LEAD 600 545 558 557 545 711 712 701 outside sources citations

STUDENT SUCCESS & Outside sources: How to use them to show you have a holistic understanding of the weekly topic

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 10/25/17.

Watch this video for my short explanation of why and how you can use outside scholarship to foster a more holistic, creative and effective leadership plan. Plus, you will demonstrate to your professor that you have a working knowledge of what scholars have said about each week’s topic.

©️Bob Whitesel 2017, used by permission only.

STUDENT SUCCESS & Don’t Use the First Resource That Pops Up in a Google Search

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Sometimes several students will cite the same outside resource, because it appears near the top of a Google search.  Many times this can be a relevant article. But other times, it may not be.

Let me give an example with a hint for student success.

I ask students to find scholarly research that explains the “difference between primary and secondary research.”  Usually, a handful of students will cite (an advertising agency). The advertising agency is not juried (i.e. does not have an editorial board of scholars verifying their explanation is reliable and valid).  But, they do correctly identify the difference between primary and secondary research.

Therefore, should students use such a source?

YES:  If students are using this source to verify that practitioners agree with scholars on the differences between primary and secondary research. This would be acceptable.

NO: If students are using these practitioners as a source of reliable and valid information in an academic course, a scholarly source should probably be utilized instead.

If you are unsure about a source, find out about their background and if they have scholarly degrees (masters or doctoral) and/or have a scholarly editorial board, they would be considered scholars. (Though there are different levels of scholarship.)

In the example above, students could find out about the ad agency’s background by clicking on the “about us” link: There students could find that while they are practitioners, they’re not scholars (and it’s not juried by an editorial board).

The problem arises because in a Google search for the “difference between primary and secondary research” this link often pops up near the top. However remember, in graduate school (a research-based school) you should not choose an outside source based upon popularity, but based upon scholarship.

While I always try to be gracious and give students some leeway early on in our course, I cannot do so later in the course. Student resources should increasingly be scholarly and therefore for fairness I will usually grade down a little bit more each week for non-scholarly sources.

My students understand that fairness and academic veracity require this. It makes their degree worth more and their learning more valuable.

HIRING & Why People Like to Hire People Like Themselves

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  A student once asked about why I require students to utilize 3-5 outside scholarly sources to support their statements.  I do this for two reasons.  First, a graduate school is based upon research, so students must not just conjecture but actually support their ideas from the words of juried scholarly sources. Secondly I require 3-5 sources (per week only) because scholarly sources are so easy to find today.  Let me give an example before we delve into the issue of hiring.

First, here is a student’s statement (with thesis) and my response regarding how (in less than 3 seconds) I found a juried (i.e. scholarly) source to support their thesis.

The student said:

Thank you (name) for your resource and thoughts on my post. I think that is a hard thing to do for a few reasons. First people want those that are less confrontational and sub-consciously pick those that are like them.

I responded:

Good comment (name).  I agree. But, to earn even more points, be sure to a cite a scholarly source for the following thesis you stated, “First people want those that are less confrontational and sub-consciously pick those that are like them (source __________).”

Here is a source that I found (in about 3 sec.) by searching for the words: “hire people like them:

You should use this system of searching for key words to easily find sources like this to score more points in graduate school.  Dr. Whitesel

Now, here is the article to answer the question in the title:

If You Want To Get Hired, Act Like Your Potential Boss

by , Business Insider Magazine, 5/29/14.

… Drawing from 120 interviews with employers, as well as participant observation of a hiring committee, Kellogg School of Management professor Lauren Rivera has found that hiring managers want recruits who have the potential to be friends.

“Hiring is more than just a process of skills sorting,” writes Rivera. “It is also a process of cultural matching between candidates, evaluators, and firms. Employers sought candidates who were not only competent but culturally similar to themselves.”

In other words, you have the same tastes, experiences, leisure pursuits, and social markers as the person across the table.

Rivera’s research found that companies might have notable levels of demographic diversity — it’s not only white dudes who work there — but still have deep-level homogeneity. Folks might have different skin colors, but they still grew up in the same handful of zip codes, attended the same elite colleges, and play the same sports…

Read more at …

STUDENT SUCCESS & Tips about outside resources learned while earning a PhD, traveling, speaking & writing 5 books.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 10/2/15.

Many people today are bi-vocational, multi-tasking students. While taking courses they must travel, work, take care of a family, etc. … and adding homework to the mix can be a chore.  I know.

A personal juggling act.

2000s.  I earned my Ph.D. while serving as Director of Graduate Ministries, the department’s only full-time professor, keeping up a national speaking schedule and writing five books … to say nothing of parenting four daughters (with loads of help from my lovely wife).

1970s.  When I first went to seminary and earned a MDiv, my wife and I estimated I purchased over $7,000 of books (and this was in 1977 dollars!).  With the advent of electronic sources students don’t have to do that today.  Yet, as I professor I want to help them rise to the level of graduate school education where we scour what has been written and bring the best and most relevant insights to increase our effectiveness of fulfilling the Great Commission with a Great Compassion.

1.  So, I did a lot of my reading in airports, and especially on planes.  I would take with me 3-4 books on a trip, and put one in my carry-on bag for each flight. Then while the plane is taking off and ascending to cruising altitude and traveling to my destination, I would read the book and take notes.  I literally have hundreds of books I have read while traveling.  And, you will notice that most people on planes take books or iPads to read, I just read books on my chosen field of study.

Graduate School is: masters-level and research-based.

My students understand that “research” is a distinguishing “mark” of graduate school. That is why when they graduate, the Academy (the scholarly profession) calls them a “master” of a topic.  This is because as professors we have observed in your work that they have “mastered” the topic by looking at what many good scholars have said about this subject.  In addition, research means finding and applying relevant resources and bringing them into the conversations with other students.

Integrating such research from numerous sources is a characteristic of graduate school education (where you are becoming a “master” of a topic by pervasive reading and studying).  My syllabi state that my students only need to quote 1-2 textbooks and 2-3 outside sources each week, but this level of research is for an average grade.  Most of my students cite more sources, usually 2-3 textbooks and 3-5 outside sources per discussion forum, and the same per paper.

Ideas for finding and conducting research amid a busy schedule.

But there is good news!  And that is that finding such sources today is much easier (when I was in seminary for my first doctorate (D.Min.) I sometimes sequestered myself in stacks of the library :-O  Today however, you can find an abundance of sources online.  Therefore, let me give you some ideas on finding relevant outside sources.

The following can be of help to writers, leaders, professors and my even students who are looking for reliable and valid research sources for discussions and writings.

2.  Many graduate-level students/researchers borrow books from their friends in the field.  Many communities, churches, schools, colleges and even museums have a nice sized libraries and are usually willing to loan them to a seminary researcher.

3.  You can often find books online available to download for free.  For example, Dr. Elmer Towns has 76 (yes, that’s right 76 😉 books on Church Growth (including The Practical Encyclopedia of Church Growth) that you can download free from his site:

4.  If you are an IWU or Wesley Seminary student, Off-campus Library Services (OCLS) can get you almost any book free.  You can search for books and request them by clicking on the OCLS “BUTTON” that appears on every MyIWU portal page.  It links you to the OCLS site:  The book will be mailed to you free, but it might take a week or so to arrive. Thus, requesting books from Off Campus Library Services (OCLS) is best to utilize when you are requesting books to use in your final Application Paper.

5.  In addition, the Off-campus Library Services (OCLS) has a website (which I’ve mentioned above).  It is and it can help you search for online journal articles. These articles can be immediately downloaded to your computer.  Just click on the You will be whisked to the OCLS site:  Once you are on the OCLS page, look for the section that says “Article Databases” and click on the one that says “Religion.”  Under the Religion category click on “ATLA (Religion Index)” and you will go to a search page where you can search for any topic.  (ATLA stands for the American Theological Library Association.) You will usually find hundreds of articles on your topic, so look carefully for the best resources for your discussion.  Also if you focus on articles  that are designated as a “.pdf” you can immediately download them to your computer.

6.  For a list of sources that an author or a professor might “recommend,” look for a “footnote trail” in your textbooks. These are footnotes in your textbooks, that can lead you to primary books that have important insights. As writers we put in “footnotes” because we are “recommending” them as original sources that are germane to the topic.  I am known for having many footnotes in my books for this very reason: to help students track down the original source and more data.  If during your readings for the week, you see a footnoted book that sounds interesting for your final paper, then email OCLS and they will send it to you in a couple of weeks.  It should arrive in plenty of time before your final Application Paper at the end of this course.  And remember, articles noted in footnotes can usually be downloaded immediately.

STUDENT SUCCESS & Why and How Students Score Better By Using Scholarly Citations

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 9/28/15.

Students sometimes want to know how to score better, especially regarding citations for the references they are finding.  Let me give you some guidelines that are typical of a graduate school level of research.

Use citations in your papers and postings.

When a professor asks you to research something, make sure you say in your paper or your posting where you found this information.  This means using a citation.  You may even want to practice using APA style to cite your quotes and references for forum postings (where APA is not required).  This can be good practice for developing APA style, and doing so will allow other students to find your resources too.

Use scholarly resources.  

When researching a topic, the student will discover an mind-numbing array of resources: from books, to articles, to blogs to websites. But, often times some comments are just Internet or blog musings by people who are not experts in the field you are investigating. Thus quoting non-experts may proliferate inaccurate knowledge.  Thus, try to use the best resources you can find.  Here is a list of sources, from those which are customarily higher in scholarly reliability to those that are customarily lower:

High Scholarly Reliability (usually)

++ Journal articles

+ Published books

+ Published articles (some newspapers, magazines and online e-zines.)

– Pamphlets

– – Web-sites (except as noted below)

– – – Blogs (except when a blog of a scholar)

– – – – Graffiti 😉

Low Scholarly Reliability (usually)

Still, there are always exceptions to the rule. For example, many websites are certainly scholarly, such as Lifeway Research, Barna Group, American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) and those sponsored by university and/or governmental agencies.

Juried Sources Are Preferred

A little checking on their site will help you discover if they are “juried.” This means there is a “jury” or “editorial board/committee” that has overseen this publication and that the research is reliable and valid.

A Recognized Scholar

Many scholars have published “juried” articles and books, and hence their non-juried blog posts can be considered “juried.”  For instance, my good friend Dr. Ed Stetzer has published many books and articles.  Thus, his blog would be considered scholarly, even though it is not always juried.

I share these guidelines because I know you will want to make the most of your limited research time.  Better information makes for better learning … and better effects for Christ’s Kingdom 🙂

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.

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), 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.

SCHOLARLY WRITING & Tips for the Wide-eyed & Mystified Graduate School Student

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

Seminary writing, as well as graduate school writing, is a bit different from undergraduate writing and even writing for the regular marketplace.

This is because in graduate school you are seeking to obtain a “Master’s degree.” The “master” designation means you have demonstrated to the Academy (i.e. the faculty) that you have “mastered” the subject manner, e.g. have read widely in it and know how to apply it.  Thus, citations show the Academy that you are becoming a master of the material and its application.

To help my students I like to steer them toward a helpful titled, Surviving and Thriving in Seminary: A Practical Guide for the Wide-eyed and Mystified. It is available as a Kindle download for the amazingly low price of $4.99.

I hope this resource further helps you, the reader, adjust to your new scholarly and practical journey into missional leadership.

Chapter Ten, “Researching and Writing Essays” has some very helpful advice:

I have a simple source rule that I teach my students that if you follow will enable you to produce quality work.  The rule is 1 source per page +1. What this means is that for a 10-page paper, aim for at minimum 11 sources. For a 20-page paper, aim for at minimum 21 resources. Aiming for this number of quality resources and actually making use of them will signal to your professor that you took the time to find an adequate number of resources to research your topic.

In observing this rule for class essays, try and keep this mind: make 1/ 3 of your resources academic journal articles. Although they are not best-sellers nor are they widely read, academic journals is where the latest research first gets published in academia. That research (some, not all) then makes its way into books and book chapters— often many years later. So when you use journal articles for your research, you signal to your professor that you are engaging in the latest discussion on the matter at hand. (Kindle Locations 867-871)

Later in the chapter Zacharias offers some more helpful insights:

If you are researching a particular topic and already have either a book or a book chapter that covers the topic, then the bibliography and footnotes of these resources will provide you with a wealth of possible resources. Like the above methods, you will need to judge for yourself based on the title if the source is worth your time (see the Reading chapter for more on this).

If your bibliography is still thin for your essay, ATLA is the place to go. ATLA was covered in the Skills chapter (including the bonus video). Getting the Resources Getting a list of resources is only half of the battle— you still need to go and actually collect them. This is where your library skills will come into play. If you have not yet followed my advice and received a tutorial from your library, I strongly suggest you do that. You will need to tap into your library’s online catalogue as well as ATLA Serials to determine if your library has the resource, and if not, then how to attain it. (Kindle Location 911)

And, the book includes a helpful video.  I cannot say enough good things about the video.  When you buy the book it includes a link to a video that demonstrates how to do an ATLA search.  Here is how one student described the book:

“This little gem of a book is filled with some great pointers like this one: ‘Remember that as you enter your studies, you are meeting and rubbing shoulders with people that are already on the same team as you. You are not entering a competitive business school where one-upmanship may ensure you securing a limited pool of jobs. You are not in the rat race of private-sector work— you are a fellow builder of God’s kingdom. You and your fellow students are in this together. Their success is your success.’ (Kindle Locations 218-221).

The bonus video and the chapters on reading and writing are helpful for not only any current assignments, but also for the duration of your seminary journey.

Zacharias, D. (2013). Surviving and thriving in seminary: a practical guide for the wide-eyed and mystified. Kindle: Danny Zacharias