These guidelines were developed out of a need to allow students to use their own life experience, and the lived experience of their families and communities in their course assignments and research. When assignments require evidence to support arguments, students need a way to cite their own experiences as evidence. We needed a structure to guide students to think about their research critically, and also ensure accountability.
The development of these citation guidelines was developed in class discussions for the course International Justice on Trial in Autumn 2018 in the University of Washington’s Law, Society, and Justice (LSJ) Department. Emily was instructor for the course, Emma and Jake were students in the course. Development of the need of the citations arose out of discussions about fourth person testimony, a form of Indigenous testimony and knowledge production as presented in Gerald Vizenor’s Native Liberty. Discussions diverse forms of knowledge production and the existence of multiple truths highlighted the need for the guidelines. In addition, Emily’s own research into knowledge production and the colonization of knowledge helped develop the guidelines and highlighted the need for them.
Emily presented the first draft of the guidelines to the course, International Justice on Trial in Autumn 2018. The main course assignment was for students to research a conflict and evaluate justice efforts and propose alternative approaches to justice. Student chose their own research topic and were encouraged to pick a topic that interested them. Six students used the citation guide, and Emily interviewed 10 students, five who used the guidelines, and five who did not. Out of these students who participated in interviews, three students expressed interested in participating in the further development of these guidelines and two of which are the co-authors of this article: Emma and Jake.
We used the feedback from the interviews and edited the guidelines to include examples of how to incorporate the citations into the text of the assignment. The citations were used in another course, Human Rights in Latin America for the Jackson School of International Studies department in the summer of 2019, and again for the International Justice on Trial course in autumn 2019. For each course, we solicited feedback from students through the anonymous course evaluation survey, resulting in a total of 60 responses out of 69 students in the three courses. With student permission, we analyzed samples of how the students incorporate the citations into their research papers.
In addition to soliciting feedback from students who used the guidelines, we also spoke with university faculty, and student workers at the university writing center. We conducted the interviews and developed the survey. In an effort to consider the use of the guidelines for a broader audience, a group of graduate students in the University of Washington School of Social Work used the guidelines to cite personal experience in a group project. We conducted interviews with a total of 13 undergraduate students and 1 graduate student who used the guidelines. Unfortunately, Emily was not able to conduct interviews with the 2019 group of students who had access to the guidelines in the “International Justice on Trial” course that year.
In response to this feedback, we continued to edit the guidelines to provide additional instruction about how to use them, we created an interview consent form as an instructional tool, as well as a form of accountability. Throughout this process we wanted to ensure ethical research practices, and also find a way to support students to produce their best work and see their own value as knowledge producers. We hope that these guidelines can continue to be updated and improved through a collaborative process with other instructors, students, and in other fields, departments, and institutions.