Revolution Lullabye

November 18, 2014

Jamieson, Reading and Engaging Sources: What Students’ Use of Sources Reveals about Advanced Reading Skills

Jamieson, Sandra. “Reading and Engaging Sources: What Students’ Use of Sources Reveals About Advanced Reading Skills.” Across the Disciplines 10.4 (11 December 2013). Web.

Jamieson uses data from the Citation Project and research on student reading skills and source-based writing from 1985 to the present to argue for revised pedagogies in first-year writing courses and beyond that help students acquire the advanced reading skills they need to successfully write source-based research papers. Jamieson contends that college faculty assume students have more sophisticated reading skills than they actually do, and she shows through an analysis of the Citation Project data that students are often working with sources shallowly and on the sentence level.

Jamieson argues that students’ reading difficulties are not the result of Internet-based reading habits; rather, she questions whether the students profiled in earlier research studies in the 1980s and 1990s ever had strong, consistent reading habits.

Jamieson suggests that the traditional research paper, assigned in a majority of first-year writing courses in US colleges and universities, be reframed in order to help students read more deeply, thoroughly, and critically. Instead of asking students to search for and synthesize a dozen or more sources, Jamieson points out that the goals of synthesis and research could be achieved by asking students to write a research paper that includes common course readings and extends the conversation with two carefully-selected outside sources. Jamieson argues that this approach could help instructors focus on teaching reading strategies and summary skills.

Quotable Quotes

“It is my contention that it is an error to assume that the goals instructors believe are being fulfilled by reading are actually the goals their students set out to fulfill by reading. This error leads to additional erroneous assumptions about how and why students read, assumptions that obscure the skills and practices that writing courses across the curriculum should be teaching.”

“Shirley is the student who lives in our collective imagination so strongly that what we believe to be her skills and needs shape curriculum, assignments, information literacy programs, and academic integrity policies.”

“Since I have begun paying systematic attention to the ways students use sources in researched papers, though, I have come to suspect that Shirley never existed. I do not believe that in 1990 there were many college sophomores who were able to read and engage with sources in the way we believed they could. And I don’t believe their children can do so today. This has huge implications for the way we teach and assess student writing and the way we assign and guide student reading. Indeed, I believe it challenges us to entirely rethink our pedagogy and expectations across the curriculum.”

Citation Project data and earlier research “specifically points to the possibility…that first-year writers have uneven success in reading and writing from sources, even from one sentence to the next.”

makes a distinction between misuse of sources and plagiarism: “such source misuse requires a pedagogical intervention rather than judicial action, although I do not mean to in any way minimize the seriousness of the problem by making this recommendation.”

“So, we need to take a second look at Ashley and her peers, a group of students who might be considered the poster children of the first-year writers the Citation Project multi-institutional research has uncovered: well-meaning students who are often anxious about correct citation, sometimes but not always able to paraphrase correctly, and sometimes but not always able to identify relevant sources. These students rarely analyze or engage with the sources they cite and tend to simplify the arguments within them…Viewing this data in the context of research on the reading abilities of students from a generation before them challenges popular assumptions about the laziness of the ‘Google generation’ and emphasizes the need for new responses.”

“In order to engage with our students in this way, instructors will benefit from a less-is-more philosophy. If students are all assigned to read the same sources, summarize them and place them into dialogue with each other, they can evaluate each other’s work and understand that not all summaries are the same.”

“However, if we develop pro-active pedagogies designed to increase the abilities of our students to engage with texts and their understanding of how texts work in general and as sources within academic texts, we may actually avoid the necessity of developing reactive pedagogies to respond to patch writing and other misuse of sources. That seems like a very fine reading goal for us and our students to work toward.”

Notable Notes

Margaret Kantz (1990) published a study focused on “a typical college sophomore” (qtd. in Kantz) named “Shirely.” Jamieson introduces a typical sophomore of 2012, “Ashley,” who could be Shirley’s daughter. Jamieson argues that their problems writing with sources and reading with sources are largely the same, unaddressed in college pedagogy for over twenty years.

Uses Mary Lynch Kennedy’s 1985 study of students writing with sources

Great overview of studies of student reading, writing with and from sources from 1985 through today

explains the methodology of the Citation Project – coding for source use, frequency of source citation, page of source that was cited, type of source, etc. Definitions of the different kinds of source use: 1. direct copying, cited but not marked as quotation; 2. direct copying, cited and marked as a quotation; 3. patch writing; 4. paraphrasing; 5. summarizing

when students write from sources, they are not engaging with whole-text arguments

students need more than one year to acquire consistent, expert reading skills

students often read for research papers with the goal of retrieving information from sources, not synthesizing ideas or understanding the larger conversation

students have trouble transferring reading, summary skills into a larger research paper

Citation Project data:

  • only 6.3% of student papers contained summary; 91.4% of the student papers used quotation
  • 77.4% of all citations were from the first 3 pages of the source; 9.4% were from page 8 or later
  • 56.5% of sources were cited once, 76.1% were cited twice

few college writing assignments (from those collected in research studies about college writing assignments across the disciplines) have explicit guidance on how to read, the goals of reading, how to use sources.

 

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