Personal Experience In Research Paper

Dear APA,

I am writing a paper for graduate school and would like to cite something I have specialized knowledge about because of previous academic and work experience. I no longer remember exactly where I learned it or who I learned it from, but I am sure that I am correct. Do I really have look up everything again? I’m not some world-famous scholar or anything, but I feel like my degree and life experience should count for something. Can I cite myself or my degree in my paper?

—Foggy in Fresno

Dear Foggy,

Unfortunately, personal experience is not something you can cite in an academic paper. First, let’s think about this question in terms of the purpose of the reference list, which is retrievability of the source for the reader. With personal experience, there is nothing for the reader to retrieve—ergo, no citation. Likewise, if you have other nonretrievable sources (personal communications, like personal e-mail and phone calls), these do not get reference list entries either (although they do receive in-text citations, because they involve other people than just yourself).

That brings us to a second point, though: the purpose of citation in academic writing. Consider for a moment the way published authors provide citations in their articles for so many facts that are doubtless part of their personal experience and knowledge by now. They provide sources not because their experience counts for nothing but because part of academic writing is demonstrating that you understand the foundation of knowledge on which your contributions stand. Academic writing is also about weaving your contributions together with what came before into the fabric of scientific thought, for the sake of those who will come after you. Looking up the sources also allows you to verify your facts against the most up-to-date information.

So, in general, you should provide sources for specialized facts and knowledge. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t speak from personal experience or opinion in your writing. In most every paper authors should be coming to their own conclusions about the data or previous research. And certainly there are contexts (such as, say, a personal response or reflection paper) in which drawing upon your own experiences and knowledge is even encouraged.  

I hope this helps clarify the “whys” of citation in academic writing!

—Chelsea Lee

I will be the first to say that I have so far enjoyed this class and have learned a large amount of information regarding the research method.  I have never really had a class that focused on the research process.  This class will benefit me later on in my career and with other graduate courses that are taken with Longwood.  In my opinion, this type of class, structure and methods, so be a requirement for all entering undergraduate student and should also be a requirement for all graduate students.  I think the feature that appeals to me the most is the way the professor breaks down each component of the research method by units exposing the student a little each time to specific components of writing a good and credible thesis.

The research method has not been the easiest, but I must praise the work of the instructor and her methods for organizing this course.  I like that fact that we have not been thrown out on our own and have been guided with the use of instructor and peer assistance throughout the research process.  I really think the blog feature has helped me tremendously and I love the fact that we receive constructive feedback after each posted blog.  I also am very glad that I have been exposed to what the Longwood Library System has to offer.  I am most proud that I have learned to research scholarly articles using the various techniques.  This is something that I have never been comfortable with, but since taking this class, I have found that it has become extremely easy to gather information using the databases available to the student.

Researching gang risk and prevention techniques is very interesting to me.  I have developed an interest in this topic since starting my career with the Department of Corrections.  I have to say that I am very fortunate to have the ability to research topics that I can relate to on a daily basis.  Even though employees are required to receive additional training during their employment, it does not compare to the research that I have completed regarding my thesis.  I also think that I can take the information gather in this class regarding my topic and present it to staff members and the community regarding this specialized topic.

In regards to advise that I would like to give my colleges regarding the research method, be patient, take your time, and do good, reliable research.  I suggest taking a good period of time to do research before even beginning any attempts at research paper constructions.  Read the abstracts of each article and make sure it contains information viable to your thesis before reading the entire article.  This will allow you to seek better information in a shorter period of time without getting wrapped up in information not related to the main topic of the paper.   I have found that it has become difficult managing my personal life while working on research, but I am lucky to have a family and employer that understands that my education if very important to me.

Finally, troubles that I have experience during the research process would include trying to find books related to my topic.  Gangs risk and prevention is not a very old topic and has been a thought circulation around the public for years, but many community officials deny that gang activity exists.  I think there is a lack of information written on this topic based this denial.  With regards to other problems associated with my research, I am having a problem reading and understanding many article based on the mass amount of date included in the journals.

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