Just as our overall course goals guide our designing of assignments and other course materials, our goals for students as they relate to documentation will guide our decisions regarding particular documentation styles. If all or most of our students have chosen similar majors, one of our goals might be to acquaint them with the documentation style most commonly used in their discipline. In that case, we might require all students to use MLA, APA, Chicago, or another specific style. This approach has the additional benefit of allowing us to evaluate a style with which we are familiar and to utilize one set of standards in evaluating students' use of documentation.
If, on the other hand, our students represent a variety of academic backgrounds and potential majors, our goal might be to provide further practice with a documentation style to which they've already been introduced and/or to equip them for their individual academic and professional writing goals. In this case, students will benefit from our willingness to allow them to choose the documentation style with which they are most comfortable and that they are most likely to encounter in future writing situations.
Whatever our decision regarding documentation style, it's important that we make our students aware of the various styles available and of the importance of audience in selecting a style. Encourage them to ascertain the style required by whatever situation they're writing for and show them how to find guidelines for each style. The online guides referred to later in this unit are a good place to start.
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