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 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.

Implications of Findings

Jamieson, Sandra & Rebecca Moore Howard, “Rethinking the Relationship Between Plagiarism and Academic Integrity.  International Journal of Technologies in Higher Education/Revue internationale des technologies en pédagogie universitaire, 16(2), 69. https://doi.org/10.18162/ritpu-2019-v16n2-07. Online edition published September 5, 2019 

  • ABSTRACT: The term academic integrity is in widespread use, and while there has been much debate about what is included under that term and how we measure and encourage integrity in an academic context, no specific definition has been codified and universally accepted. This article reviews the historical evolution of the phrase through scholarship beginning in the 1960s, its shifting definition as an ethical or moral concept, and the ways in which it is currently being used, with a focus on the logics by which textual errors came to be classified as moral lapses. This article also provides analysis of students’ textual errors as they work from sources. Based on these analyses, we advocate bringing together all cheating behaviors, including academic ghostwriting, under the umbrella of academic integrity and calling them cheating, plain and simple. At the same time, we contend that textual errors such as patchwriting and faulty citation should be removed from the moral category of academic integrity and treated as instances of bad writing to be remedied by pedagogy, not punishment.

Jamieson, Sandra. “Shouldn’t our expectations of students’ and academics’ intertextuality practices differ?” Student Plagiarism in Higher Education: Reflections on Teaching Practice, edited by Diane Pecorari and Philip Shaw. Taylor & Francis/Routledge Research in Higher Education Series (co-published with the Society for Research into Higher Education), Abingdon, UK. 2018.

  • ABSTRACT:  Just as we expect novice readers to be less able to understand and respond to difficult sources, so we must expect a more limited intertextuality from novice writers, and acknowledge that even experts may have different levels of expertise in different contexts. If we approach misused sources at all levels not as examples of plagiarism (intentional or unintentional) but rather as evidence of inadequate academic enculturation, we will be in a position to teach, mentor, and advise our students and colleagues as they absorb and transform the ideas of others.

Application of Findings:

Howard, Rebecca Moore and Sandra Jamieson, “The Ethics of Teaching Rhetorical Intertextuality.” Journal of Academic Ethics. FORTHCOMING, 2021.

  • ABSTRACT: Three approaches to intertextual writing are available to college instructors: mechanical, ethical, and rhetorical. The mechanical approach, a staple of writing instruction, teaches the use of citation styles such as MLA or APA; methods of citing sources; and the conventions of quotation. The ethical approach is primarily concerned with the character of individual writers and their adherence to community standards categorized as “academic integrity.” The great majority of source-based writing instruction attends to one or both of these approaches. A third approach, rhetorical intertextuality, is overshadowed by the ethical concerns that currently permeate educational institutions. Rhetorical intertextuality does promote textual ethics, but in a positive way, through instruction in building meaning in a target text through collaboration with source texts. Rhetorical intertextuality brings the source texts themselves to life (rather than merely mining them for information) and aims to engage the audience in a conversation with target text and source texts. Drawing on Citation Project data, we advocate instruction in intertextual writing that hails students as authors, not transgressors. Rhetorical intertextuality can provide a positive frame for college instruction in intertextual writing, one that facilitates deep engagement with texts; intellectual approaches to paraphrasing and summarizing; and an emphasis on the rhetorical choices that writers make as they encounter and respond to the ideas of others. The objective of such instruction is a dialogic interface between writer, audience, and sources—a conversation.
Jamieson, Sandra, and Rebecca Moore Howard. Teaching Writing After the Citation Project: A Pedagogy of Rhetorical Intertextuality. Under contract at Parlor Press and under development.

ABSTRACTCitation 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. Collectively, we identify these pedagogies as Rhetorical Intertextuality. 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.