August 2007 // Volume 45 // Number 4

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What's Wrong with Skimpy References Sections?

"What's Wrong with Skimpy References Sections?" answers that question. "August JOE" skims the surface of another good issue.

What's Wrong with Skimpy References Sections?

I have been getting some submissions lately, even of Feature articles, with very skimpy References sections. What's wrong with that? Quite a bit.

For one thing, it shows that authors have not done their homework and found out how other scholars have addressed their topic, what light they have had to shed on it, what methodologies they have used.

For another, it means that their articles are not as informative as they could be and should be. Readers are helped by knowing what else has been researched and written about on a topic. It deepens their understanding and gives them someplace to go if the topic is particularly relevant to them or has seized their interest.

For yet another, articles with no or few citations to other work don't make their points as effectively as they could. Perhaps an article validates work that has been done by others or adds to it. Citing those works is a way of adding credibility. Perhaps an article takes a different tack or comes to a different conclusion. Citing relevant works in those cases demonstrates an article's originality.

And finally, authors of articles with scanty literature searches have not participated in the scholarly dialogue that refereed journals like JOE celebrate and perpetuate.

I inevitably "return" submissions with inadequate References sections and citations to their authors for improvement before accepting them as suitable for review. If I didn't, JOE reviewers would reject them--as they should.

One way to start the kind of literature search that will strengthen an article is to visit and use the JOE Search site, but you know that's not the only way.

August JOE

Don't let the words "Extension Forestry" in the title of the first Feature lead you to skip that article if you're not a forestry type. The authors' point about absolute frequencies being more effective when seeking to persuade people and relative frequencies when seeking to educate them is relevant for all of us Extension types. And this severely math-impaired editor actually kind of understood it, which is testimony to how well it is written.

And, as fair season is winding down, it's interesting to read the last Feature, too. The authors don't mince words:

When animal health professionals and the commercial sheep industry as a whole recommend one course of action on this issue and Extension in many states simply ignores it--there is a significant disconnect between industry practice and Extension recommendations. The authors of this article contend that this places Extension in an untenable position and thereby possibly jeopardizes its relevance.

That's conviction, and it's persuasive, too.

Community development gets a fair amount of attention in other articles in this issue, as do other worthy topics, and that brings me to the Tools of the Trade section and the first article, a review of Negotiating the Complexities of Qualitative Research in Higher Education: Fundamental Elements and Issues. Seems like an interesting and very useful book. The next article answers the question "What Makes a Great Science Experience?" and provides a checklist for educators. And the third Tools of the Trade, "The Growers' Roundtable: Encouraging Conversations About Critical Farmers' Market Management Issues," makes the point that "getting the right people together to focus on important topics with appropriate conversational rules results in an excellent recipe for success" and explains a technique for achieving that.

A book, a checklist, a technique--some good tools for our trade. And there are four more.

What more can I say? It's another good issue.

Laura Hoelscher, Editor