Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Join Us at CCCC 2012 in St. Louis!

Understanding Students’ Source Choices: Insights from the Citation Project and LILAC Project
Session: D.19 on Mar 22, 2012 from 3:15 PM to 4:30 PM Cluster: 10) Research
Type: Concurrent Session (3 or more presenters) Interest Emphasis: Not Applicable
Level Emphasis: All Focus: First-Year Composition
Description of session: When instructors read students’ researched writing, they assess the sources in the bibliography and the ways in which sources are cited in the text. The results of two separate research projects, however, provide important new information about how and why students choose the sources they do; what kinds of sources are chosen; and how the source choices affect the intellectual and rhetorical quality of the students’ written work. Speakers in this session describe pedagogical changes that are suggested by the research results.

Speaker One Abstract:
TITLE: Statistical Analysis of Students' Source Choices

The Citation Project has studied almost 1,000 sources cited in 175 student researched papers from FYC classes at 16 colleges across the US, and the correlation between the type and difficulty-level of the source and students’ use of it. This presentation will discuss these findings and related questions about how we describe and they assess sources. There is much room for confusion when we say “peer reviewed” to mean “reviewed by academics” but wikipedia is also “peer reviewed,” and there is more confusion regarding bias. McClure and Clink’s 2009 study of 100 student essays found that sources they classified as “advocacy” were the most frequently cited, followed by “News” and “Informational” (“How Do You Know That?”). A 2011 whitepaper by, “Plagiarism and the Web,” uses six classifications, and notes that material in “Homework and Academic” is the second most frequently used (25% of 140 million content matches). This category includes, which boasts “more than 6,500,000 student-uploaded documents from over 5,000 universities around the world” but would probably not be classified as “academic” by most FYC faculty. Another Turnitin grouping, “News and Portals,” includes The New York Times and (the 2nd most frequently used source after wikipedia). Turnitin studied “content matches” and didn’t distinguish between quoted or correctly cited and uncited work. The citation project only codes cited source use and classifies sources into much finer categories, yet some of the findings match those of Turnitin and both studies conclude that we need to teach students to incorporate source material more effectively. But this research also confirms that students in FYC are failing to use appropriate sources, and suggests that rather than trying to teach them how to find those sources—or using computer programs to monitor which sites they use and how they use them—FYC should stop assigning the research paper.

Speaker Two Abstract:
TITLE: How Students Find and Evaluate Sources

This presentation will report on the LILAC Project’s pilot study of students’ information-seeking behavior (ISB). Using a “research-aloud protocol” (RAP), along with interviews and surveys, we attempt to discover what students are taking away from current classroom- and library-based information literacy instruction so that we can make recommendations for equipping students with research skills that will transfer beyond the first-year classroom. In the past few years, research into and testing of students’ skills in information literacy, usually defined as the ability to locate and use information from outside sources, has proliferated. The results of most of these tests and studies, however, is to tell us what we, as educators, already know: whatever we are doing now to teach essential information literacy skills to our students is just not working. Even though teachers and librarians have tried a wide variety of ways to teach these skills, students continue to fare poorly in assessments of those skills. While there are problems with many of these assessment instruments, we are right to be concerned, as the RAPs I describe in this presentation will show. The problem is not a lack of instruction or a lack of instructional materials dealing with information literacy; of these, we have an embarrassment of riches. Instead, we may need to reconsider how, when, and where we provide students with this instruction.

Speaker 3 Abstract:
TITLE: Pedagogical Causes and Rhetorical Consequences of Students' Source Choices

A rhetorical analysis of papers studied in the Citation Project reveals that what often seem to be stylistic infelicities, underdeveloped or disorganized writing, misuse of sources, or excessive reliance on sources cannot be remedied in late stages of composing. The Citation Project research reveals that instead, these issues often derive from “quote-mining” sources rather than reading them; overvaluing brevity and ease of reading as criteria for source selection; and focusing on correct citation without actually engaging with or even reading the sources. Passages from an array of student research papers illustrate problems in style and academic integrity that result from attenuated and cursory source selection and incomplete reading. These results suggest that it may be useful to redefine “early” and “late” stages of students’ writing from sources, with drafting categorized not as an “early” stage but a “late” one. It may be useful, too, to consider the extent to which correct citation is being overvalued in the assessment of student writing. Even when poor sources have been chosen and read only for the discovery of “killer quotes,” the paper may appear to handle sources well. Speaker 3 will offer concrete principles for what seem necessary and extensive pedagogical and curricular reforms.

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