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As an instructor, I often tell my students to reference their required reading in their assignments. Once in a while, someone will ask me why. I answer by giving two reasons.

First, it is important from an instructor’s perspective. When you include a reference to something you read in the required reading to support your thoughts and ideas, it shows your instructor that you have read, understood, and can apply the reading assignment.

Second, it is more important from the perspective of you, the student. You are investing a lot of time and money in your education, and you should get the most out of it that you can. Completing all of your reading assignments is a big part of that. And referencing what you read in your assignments helps to ensure you understand it correctly.

To put this in perspective, let me share with you an email conversation I recently had with one of my students. This student was the first to post an initial response to an online discussion. And while it was very well thought out, he did not include any reference to our reading assignments to support his thoughts. Since this was the first discussion in our class, I posted a reply asking him what he read in our assignments that support his ideas.

My student sent me an email apologizing for not including support and then explained that he had a good working knowledge of the topic and confessed that he had not read all the required reading that week before posting his response to the discussion.

In my response, I told him I appreciated his posting early in the week, but since he was the first, he inadvertently set the tone for the discussion. That is why I asked about what he read as a response to his post; I wanted everyone to see that this is an important part of a good academic discussion.

I then explained that in an academic setting, we must always give support to back up our thoughts and ideas and not depend upon our own understanding. It helps to ensure we are not reading too much into the subject of the assignment or taking it out of context.

I then concluded with one more thing to think about. We want to learn as much as we can about the subject matter of the course. Otherwise, why would we invest the money in an education? With that in mind, if we only depend on what we already know, we are robbing ourselves of the value in this class. Reading our required assignments will teach us new things and perhaps give us a different perspective that we had never thought of before.

That is the best reason for you to reference your course readings in your assignments. It is one way to get the most bang for your buck in your education. If you take short cuts and only refer to things you already know or reference books you have already read, you are not cheating the system; you are cheating yourself!