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

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

Second, and perhaps more important is from the perspective of the student. They are investing a lot of time and money in their education, and they should get the most out of it that they can. Completing all their reading assignments is a big part of that. And when they reference what they read in an assignment, it helps to ensure it was understood 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 the 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 a student to reference the course readings in their assignments. It is one way to get the most bang for their buck in an education. When a student takes short cuts by referring to things they already know or referencing books they have already read, it is not cheating the system; it is robbing them of an education!