Writing from 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, Madhuparna (Maya) Sanyal, Tricia Serviss, Wendy Sutherland-Smith, Missy Watson, and Erik Wallenberg.


This study explored 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. Intertextual analysis of these students’ work produced a data-based portrait of student reading and source-use practices. 


Analysis of the 174 researched papers found the students working from one or two sentences in 94% of their citations; citing the first or second page of their sources in 70% of their citations; and citing only 24% of their sources more than twice. While 78% of the papers include at least one incidence of paraphrase, 52% include at least one incidence of patchwriting, with students moving back and forth between the two within the same paragraph. Like earlier small-scale and single-institution studies (including “Writing from Sentences”), this research presents an image of 174 students moving into their sophomore year of college while only sometimes demonstrating expert reading, and more commonly shaping what they read and write “at the point of utterance.” They need instruction in strategies for understanding, initiating, and entering into academic conversations and arguments.

[Downloadable PDF of data]

Related Publications:

Report and Analysis of Findings:

Jamieson, Sandra, and Rebecca Moore Howard. “Sentence-Mining: Uncovering the Amount Of Reading and Reading Comprehension In College Writers’ Researched Writing” in The New Digital Scholar: Exploring and Enriching the Research and Writing Practices of NextGen Students. Eds. Randall McClure and James P. Purdy. Medford, NJ: American Society for Information Science and Technology, 2013. 111-133.

  • Abstract: When 94% of the citations in 174 students’ researched writing papers from 16 disparate U.S. colleges and universities are working only with sentences from the sources and are drawing those sentences from pages 1 or 2 of the source 69.49 percent of the time, we can conclude that these papers offer scant evidence that the students can comprehend and make use of complex written text. Maybe they can; but they don’t. We urge instructors and  librarians to take these findings as a mandate for instructional change. For example, we believe that students need instruction in methods of deep engagement with sources, talking with and about a source rather than merely mining sentences from it.
  • [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.

Jamieson, Sandra. Reading and Engaging Sources: What Student’s Use of Sources Reveals About Advanced Reading Skills. In Across the Disciplines (ATD), Special issue on Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum, Guest Editor Alice Horning. November 2013.

  • Abstract: A comparison of published statements about the source-­use skills of sophomores in the 1990s and the source-use skills revealed by the 2011-2013 Citation Project study of researched writing suggests that many of the assumptions driving pedagogy, policy, and curricula need to be revised and that faculty working across the disciplines should work with students on reading, summarizing, and related source-­use skills when they assign researched writing.
  •  [Downloadable PDF]