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.



December 20, 2012

Middleton, Recognizing Acts of Reading

Middleton, Holly. “Recognizing Acts of Reading: Creating Reading Outcomes and Assessments for Writing.” WPA 36.1 (Fall/Winter 2012): 11-31. Print.

Middleton argues for clearer outcome statements for reading comprehension in writing programs, pointing out that good college writing practices are inextricably linked to successful college reading practices. Together with the instructors of her institution’s basic writing program, she wrote specific, measurable reading outcomes for the basic reading course and designed a pre- and post-course assessment to determine whether or not those students’ reading comprehension (tested by true/false reading guide statements and a summary of the problem presented in three related texts) improved over the course of the semester.  Middleton kept data for four semesters (two academic years), and found a positive, statistically significant improvement in students’ reading abilities. She argues for WPAs to develop and align reading outcomes and assessments for their writing programs that fit the needs of their institutions, and calls for further research in the field on the relationship between reading and writing.

Notable Notes

the program was designed for students at New Mexico Highlands University, a university that enrolls a large number of Hispanic, low-income, and first-generation college students.  The English 100 (basic writing) course is one that is an important part of the university’s mission and the subject of administrative interest and oversight.

Middleton instituted a common text (Integrations), a common reading assessment (pre- and post- text), and asked instructors to privilege open-ended, inquiry, problme-solving questions and responses instead of one-answer-is-right reading assessments.  Reading is assessed through writing.

Tehaha O’Reilly and Kathleen Sheehan: framework for reading assessment – “model-building” and “applied comprehension” (15) – assessment not easily accomplished in multiple choice.

consistency in this assessment was key – in course text, assessments, grading practices, teaching strategies

rely on Adler-Kassner/Estrem’s “Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing: A View from the Field” (The Outcomes Book) and “Reading Practices in the Writing Classroom” (WPA 31 (2007))

increase in word count between pre- and post- test (more fluency, if not better summary/content)

Quotable Quotes

“If we do not recognize the role of reading, the other act of composition, in our writing programs and our field, we aren’t recognizing the complexity of our textual world” (27).

Long-range assessment: the US Air Force Academy mathematics study (instructor/student pairing, Carrell and West): “The study is a compelling one, because it points to the limits of each assessment in the context of a learner’s intellectual life and within a sequenced curriculum. We assess what we value, but that does not mean that everything we value is or can be captured.” (25)

“We would do well to remember that learning to write for a new discourse community requires learning to read for it” (12).

“Rather than an elementary activity, reading comprehension is itself a complex set of practices implied, but not usually elaborated, in our writing programs” (15)…connection to summary writing/using sources

“It is the activity of rereading and returning to the text, of referring to the text in class discussions, that we wanted to prioritize.” (16)

“Students tended to experience each reading as compartmentalized and discrete, rather than as the sequenced intellectual journey we imagined for them” (18).


May 10, 2009

Kessler, Helping High School Students Understand Academic Integrity

Kessler, Kate. “Helping High School Students Understand Academic Integrity.” The English Journal. 92.6 (July 2003), 57-63.

Kessler, a high-school-English-teacher-turned-assistant-professor, argues that students approach cheating in college differently than in high school for three different reasons: 1. punishments in college are more severe than in high school 2. what constitutes cheating in college is different (and more ambiguous) than in high school and 3. college students act more ethically, independently, and responsibly toward their academic work than high school students. She offers several suggestions for high school English teachers to help their students understand the differences in academic honesty and ethics they will encounter in college, claiming that the students will be best served when the expectations remain consistent and high.

Quotable Quotes

“While high school teachers are rightfully more nuturing and less punitive than college counterparts, students respond like any other life form: constant reinforcement is much more effective in producing a desired behavior than intermittent reinforcement. Consistent adherence to academic integrity in high school prepares students for academic integrity in college” (59).

“Teaching students how to avoid plagiarism by citing quotations, paraphrases, and summaries is a fairly simple endeavor” (61)

Notable Notes

cheating is rampant in high school, largely because of the competition associated with getting high grades and high ranks to get into college

cheating is more than plagiarism – cheat sheets, writing vocab words on something, collaborating with the class on multiple-choice answers

collaboration  v. collusion

plagiarism = unauthorized use of someone’s own words, students need to cite everything, even a roommate’s phrase or term

assignment ideas – bring in a college professor, research college honor codes

February 15, 2009

Marsh, Plagiarism: Alchemy and Remedy in Higher Education

Marsh, Bill. Plagiarism: Alchemy and Remedy in Higher Education. Albany, SUNY Press, 2007.

Instead of focusing on student motivation for plagiarism, this book looks at student plagiarism in higher education from a broader historical and theoretical perspective, investigating the evolution and ideologies of plagiarism prevention and internet-based plagiarism detection software. These software systems simultaneously cling to a model of authorship, reading, and writing that does not take into account the networked literacies and composing practices of today’s students and use these literacies and practices to detect improper source use by copying, scanning, and keeping student texts for their own profit. Both plagiarism and plagiarism detection are authoring activities with particular perspectives, with software detection services operating out of disciplinary, power, rehabilitation, control, and enforcement motives (43). The networked computer challenges these assumptions and calls for a new way of thinking about student research, writing, and reading.

Quotable Quotes

Plagiarism detection services “already use remediation techniques to produce student texts toward the formulation of safe, healthy, and legitmate writing subjects. In today’s institutions of higher learning, the time may have come to turn those techniques around – literally and figuratively – to better serve today’s post-media, multimodal learners” (156)

“I approach the plagiarism problem as an instance of social and political contestion mader real in the micromechanisms of composition pedagogy, intellectual property law, and, more recently, computer technology” (7)

The new media composer has new conventions and techniques that “revamp or remediate a range of authoring practices not altogether lost in our new media age” (148)

“Plagiarism detection services promise more generally to correct, or right, errant information flows while also teaching the prevailing lessons of modern authorship and intellectual property in the digital age” (4).

Notable Notes

The software which reads for “high-value” words remediates reading practices and calls to mind alchemy, “a new methodology for determining (reading for) authorial orginality.” Through ordering information, it orders human beings. (151)


Chapter 1: plagiarism scandals of Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin, compare to how student plagiarizers who don’t have power are treated.
Chapter 2: definitions of plagiarism as failed authorship and the stealing of intellectual property; plagiarism detection software as a form of social control, 2 wrongs of plagiarism: stealing property and appropriating authorial originality
Chapter 3: early 20th century plagiarism prevention and management of student writing, 1913 U of Minnesota instructions
Chapter 4: Renaissance understandings of plagiarism through metaphors of alchemy and literary change
Chapter 5: inadequacy of handbooks to teach techniques for avoiding plagiarism because they rely on genre and insider knowledge
Chapter 6: inquiry as essential to late 20th century composition pedagogy, Ballenger’s research paper, influcenced by Montaigne
Chapter 7: internet plagiarism detection services (4 of them), how they regulate student writing and draw upon the alchemical, rhetorical, and legal traditions of plagiarism prevention
Chapter 8: how this all plays out with the networked internet and computer as a compositional tool

Research paper: contradictary because it requires students to create something original in an exercise that requires them to recognize the originality of other authors and to cite it in their papers. (88)

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