Thursday, 5 November 2015

Frequency of In Text Referencing in Academic Work

One of the hardest things I have to get across to students is how frequent in text referencing needs to be. Referencing should provide a CLEAR map back to the source material that formed our ideas. As a writer, it is a key part of our job to show our readers a clear path back to the materials that informed each piece of our writing.

By doing that, we allow discussion, reflection, application and further learning.

If we write as 'naive inquirers' (ie, allowing our curiosity to show; to ask questions, not provide absolutes, putting ourselves in our reader's shoes to understand how they experience our story; Winkelman, 2010), referencing should occur in:
  • every paragraph,
  • to underpin the theory we have consulted, AND
  • to underpin our application
At degree and post-graduate level, wherever we bring our own secondary research together with a theory, we will often need at least two references: one to show where we got our secondary research from, and one to reference the underlying theory.

For example, the following is from a case study I wrote, bringing together theory and application to the case (Young, 2011, p. 4):

"To be considered an authentic leader, a person must have consistent experiences, thoughts, emotions, needs, wants, preferences, beliefs, processes, actions and behaviours (Aviolo & Gardner, 2005). Dick Hubbard has held true to his beliefs, despite a failed campaign to be re-elected as Mayor. Most New Zealanders would say unequivocally that Dick Hubbard is Corporate Social Responsibility in practice (Fowler, 2010)."

Then, anything that is not referenced, means that it is simply our opinion, for which there is no evidence other than our own imagination (until we write it down or tell someone) or our own research.

References also need to be related to - and alongside - the particular items that they are supporting. They cannot be simply all dropped in a pile, without context, at the end of a sub-section.

In a second example, the following is from some analysis I did in my Master's thesis on the research approach to cases (Young, 2014, p. 8-9):

"In compiling the table, I noted several themes. It appears that some case writers classify by the research method (Merriam 1988; Stake, 1995), others by the case source material (Lijphart, 1971; Yin, 2009; Thomas, 2001), others by how they fit with other cases in a series (De Vaus, 2001; Seawright & Gerring, 2008), others by the type of solution required (Heath, 2006; Ellet, 2007) and others by a combination of approaches (Lijphart, 1971)."

This paragraph gives the reader a good idea of what I had looked at, what each source work was related to, and what had influenced my work and my own thinking.

However, if I had just dropped a load of references at the end, it means that the reader has no idea which source had influenced each idea, so my reader would then have to go back and do the work which I should have done as the writer:

In compiling the table, I noted several themes. It appears that some case writers classify by the research method, others by the case source material, others by how they fit with other cases in a series, others by the type of solution required and others by a combination of approaches (De Vaus, 2001; Ellet, 2007; Heath, 2006; Lijphart, 1971; Merriam 1988; Seawright & Gerring, 2008; Stake, 1995; Thomas, 2001; Yin, 2009).

Or even worse, what if I had more than one paragraph, so that my reader doesn't even know what paragraph the references are applying to?

In compiling the table, I noted several themes.

It appears that some case writers classify by the research method, others by the case source material, others by how they fit with other cases in a series, others by the type of solution required. 

Others used a combination of approaches.

(De Vaus, 2001; Ellet, 2007; Heath, 2006; Lijphart, 1971; Merriam 1988; Seawright & Gerring, 2008; Stake, 1995; Thomas, 2001; Yin, 2009).

My reader would have been absolutely lost.

So remember to give your reader a CLEAR map back to the source.


Sam


References:
  • Winkelman, Cecelia (2010). More than Picking at Scabs: working with trainee counsellors. Australian and Aotearoa New Zealand Psychodrama Association Journal, Volume 19 (pp. 56-64)
  • Young, Sam (2014). Making leadership cases impactful: a comparison of teaching methods. NZ: University of Auckland Master Thesis. https://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/A49CV
  • Young, Sam (2011). Dick Hubbard – What a Way to Start the Day. NZ: NMIT

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