Journal Article: “It’s What’s on the Inside That Counts: Analyzing Student Use of Sources in Composition Research Papers”
The following article was recently published by Evidence Based Library and Information Practice.
It’s What’s on the Inside That Counts: Analyzing Student Use of Sources in Composition Research Papers
James W Rosenzweig
Eastern Washington University
Middle Tennessee State University
Mary C. Thill
Northeastern Illinois University
Evidence Based Library and Information Practice
Vol. 16 No. 4 (2021)
Objective – This study is designed to discover what kinds of sources are cited by composition students in the text of their papers and to determine what types of sources are used most frequently. It also examines the relationship of bibliographies to in-text citations to determine whether students “pad” their bibliographies with traditional academic sources not used in the text of their papers.
Methods – The study employs a novel method grounded in multidisciplinary research, which the authors used to tally 1,652 in-text citations from a sample of 71 student papers gathered from English Composition II courses at three universities in the United States. These data were then compared against the papers’ bibliographic references, which had previously been categorized using the WHY Method.
Results – The results indicate that students rely primarily on traditional academic and journalistic sources in their writing, but also incorporate a significant and diverse array of other kinds of source material. The findings identify a strong institutional effect on student source use, as well as the average number and type of in-text citations, which demographic characteristics do not explain. Additionally, the study demonstrates that student bibliographies are highly predictive of in-text source selection, and that students do not exhibit a pattern of “padding” bibliographies with academic sources.
Conclusion – The data warrant the conclusions that an understanding of one’s own institution is vitally important for effective work with students regarding their source selection, and that close analysis of student bibliographies gives an unexpectedly reliable picture of the types and proportions of sources cited in student writing.
Direct to Full Text Article
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21 pages; PDF.
Filed under: Data Files, Journal Articles, Libraries, News
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com. Gary is also the co-founder of infoDJ an innovation research consultancy supporting corporate product and business model teams with just-in-time fact and insight finding.