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Teaching with Writing: Teaching Source Use

3 Dec

December Teaching with Writing Tip
by Steven Wandler,Teaching with Writing Consultant
UMinn Center for Writing

Finding, scrutinizing, using, and citing source materials are essential moves in academic writing. Learning to use sources properly helps students avoid plagiarism and learn meaningful ways to join the ongoing conversations among scholars and professionals.

Tip #1: Focus students on reading sources effectively.

Good source use requires good source reading. Studies have shown that the majority of student citations come from a source’s first page. Give students strategies for reading texts deeply but also efficiently and effectively.

  • For example, rather than assigning a traditional annotated bibliography, require students to engage texts more thoroughly by assigning a research matrix instead. A research matrix can encourage students to respond to sources in particular ways that go beyond mere summary. For example, a research matrix might ask students to articulate the following items:
  Citation Idea 1 Evidence Idea 2 Evidence Comment Questions Relation to other sources Etc.
Source 1                  
Source 2                  
Source n                  

 

Tip #2: Encourage students to engage sources in meaningful and productive ways.

Studies have shown that students tend to incorporate sources predominantly at the sentence level rather than at the idea or argumentative level. Whenever source use is superficial, the purpose of research becomes irrelevant.

Focusing primarily on the technical means of source citation can lead to student writing “looking good” without actually being good. Instead, get students to focus on three essential moves of successful source use by providing models or templates:

  • introducing and orienting sources: “In the context of _____, X argues that _____.”
  • interpreting and explaining sources: “When X says _____, she means _____.”
  • connecting sources to the student’s own arguments and claims: “However, X’s claim that _____ fails to account for _____.”

Learn more:

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