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Have them find a citation from an actual bibliography. First show them how to find things from a bibliography and what the different types of things are. The students need to figure out which of the following things is the item I assign them.
Why Do It?
It helps you to practice searching on a subject, and for “known items” (sources where you have a citation and know the author/title/publication information).
It gives you experience in reading academic sources and understanding how they fit together and how thought on a topic evolves. (Scholarship is a conversation.)
How To Do It
You start with any citation/article you find that fits your topic well. This is the “MAIN” citation. (Ideally it is something that is at least 3 years old – maybe closer to 5 – because a very recent publication won’t necessarily have more recent scholarship citing it.)
From the MAIN article, choose any source from its bibliography/works cited. That is the “BEFORE” citation.
Then, do a search to see (some databases do this automatically as a feature, some don’t) if there are more recent articles that include the “MAIN” citation in their bibliographies, and choose one of them. That is the “AFTER” citation.
Read all 3 sources and describe how they relate/build upon each other.
Here’s an example:
My MAIN article is by Kaylor and is from 2011:
Kaylor, Brian T. "No Jack Kennedy: Mitt Romney's “Faith In America” Speech And The Changing Religious-Political Environment." Communication Studies 62.5 (2011): 491-507. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 5 Dec. 2016.
My BEFORE article, by Friedenberg, is from 2002. Kaylor cites it in his 2011 article.
Friedenberg, Robert V. "Rhetoric, Religion And Government At The Turn Of The 21St Century." Journal Of Communication & Religion 25.1 (2002): 34-48. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 5 Dec. 2016.
In 2015, Crosby cites Kaylor’s 2011 article.
CROSBY, RICHARD BENJAMIN. "Toward A Practical, Civic Piety: Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, And The Race For National Priest." Rhetoric & Public Affairs 18.2 (2015): 301-330. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 5 Dec. 2016.