Selecting Sources

Description of the Research

Data Set:

CPSW Corpus (papers and cited sources from sixteen colleges and universities in the United States. Collected, 2010-2011)

Date of Study:


Principal Investigators:

Sandra Jamieson and Rebecca Moore Howard

Contributing Researchers:

Crystal Benedicks, Erin Carroll, Kristen Cameron, Sara B. Chaney, Kristi Murray Costello, Dennis Coyle, Christiane K. Donahue, Bess Fox, TJ Geiger, Nichol Gonzales-Howell, Susanmarie Harrington, Jennifer Holly-Wells, Françoise Jacobsohn, Walter Jacobsohn, Santosh Khadka, Kelly Kinney, Elizabeth Kleinfeld, Kelsey Lowe, Kathryn Navickas, Jeep Roberto, Samantha Roy, Madhupama (Maya) Sanyal, Wendy Sutherland-Smith, Missy Watson, and Erik Wallenberg.


This study explored the sources listed and used in the 174 researched papers from the Citation Project Source-Based Writing Corpus (CPSW), which includes researched writing by first-year students at 16 US colleges and universities. Analysis of the sources selected and listed on the reference page, the sources actually cited in the papers, the frequency of use, and the pages referenced, produced a data-based portrait of student information literacy practices. 


Like earlier small-scale and single-institution studies whose source coding categories were replicated in this study, analysis of the 174 student papers in the study and the sources cited reveals students who were able to select appropriate sources, but who did not make balanced use of those sources in their researched writing. They need instruction in strategies for reading and evaluating source materials and drawing relevant information from them. 

Related Publications:

Report and Analysis of Findings:

Jamieson, Sandra. “What the Citation Project Tells Us About Information Literacy in College Composition.” In Information Literacy: Research and Collaboration across Disciplines. Perspectives in Writing Series. Edited by Barbara D’Angelo, Sandra Jamieson, Barry Maid, & Janice R. Walker. Fort Collins, Colorado: WAC Clearing House & University Press of Colorado, 2017. 119-143.

  • Abstract: The 930 sources cited in 174 papers taken from the CPSW Corpus and written before the introduction of the ACLR Frameworks were classified by type, replicating the coding categories of several single-site studies in order to extend their findings and determine whether their claims can be applied more broadly than to the particular institution from which they drew their data. The study increases our understanding of student source selection practices across sites and over time. Studies whose coding categories were applied to the CPSW data include those by McClure and Clink (2009), Knight-Davis & Sung (2008), Carlson (2006), Davis (2002 & 2003), Jenkins (2002), and Davis & Cohen (2001). While the findings do reinforce some of the single-site findings, some of the new findings challenge oft-repeated and widely believed claims, especially about the internet.
  • [Downloadable PDF

Application of Findings:

Jamieson, Sandra, and Rebecca Moore Howard. Struggling with Sources: Teaching Writing after the Citation Project. Under contract at Parlor Press and under development in 2018.

Abstract: Citation Project research has provided concrete data about students’ instructional needs in information literacy, critical reading, research, and writing from sources. This book draws on that research to recommend pedagogies designed to help students find and select reliable sources and to help them incorporate those sources into contemporary genres of writing, from the traditional researched paper to websites, blogs, and other multimodal forms. Throughout the book, instructors’ and students’ concerns about plagiarism are addressed, and the pedagogical recommendations are specifically designed to help students learn ethical means of source-based writing.