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Skimming the Surface

By Dan Berrett

An analysis of research papers written in first-year composition courses at 15 colleges reveals that many students simply copy chunks of text from the sources they cite without truly grasping the underlying argument, quality or context.

“The findings are not happy news for how writing is taught,” Rebecca Moore Howard, an associate professor of writing and rhetoric at Syracuse University, said here Thursday at the annual meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication. “[Students] are not selecting authoritative, meaningful sources and not reading them carefully. They are not, in a word, engaging.”

Howard’s presentation — with her co-principal researcher, Sandra Jamieson, professor of English, director of composition and department chair at Drew University — of the initial findings of the Citation Project could carry broad implications for how writing is taught at the college level, not just in composition courses, but across disciplines.

“We were often stunned by what we found,” Jamieson told the standing-room crowd Thursday, adding that the biggest shock often came when researchers reviewed papers from their own institutions. “What we can say with confidence is that the trends cross school types and student types.”

Continued at: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2011/04/11/study_of_first_year_students_research_papers_
finds_little_evidence_they_understand_sources

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