In a 2011 interview with Project Information Literacy, Sandra Jamieson and Rebecca Moore Howard of the Citation Project addressed the preliminary results from their study of students' source use in first-year composition papers. Jamieson and Howard told Project Information Literacy that:
- 42% of the citations they examined were direct quotes
- 32% were paraphrases
- 16% were patch written [i.e., attempted paraphrases that stayed too close to the original passages' language or syntax], and
- 6% were summaries.
While these results may seem promising at first, Jamieson and Howard noted that the low percentage of summaries suggests a correspondingly low engagement with the overall arguments of complex texts; students interacted with texts largely at the sentence level instead. As further evidence of this assertion, the Citation Project found that:
- 46% of the citations were to the first page of the cited source, and
- 70% were to the first two pages.
What do these findings mean for Augustana? Those who attended the Assessment for Improvement committee's winter-break workshop on teaching and assessing reading and oral communication clearly seemed to think that students have difficulty grappling with texts. In fact, workshop presenter Alice Horning of Oakland University, Michigan, cited the Citation Project's findings in her session about strategies for teaching reading.
Although library instruction is commonly viewed as teaching students search strategies--developing keywords, employing Boolean operators, etc.--the Tredway librarians have come to believe that we, too, should emphasize thinking about sources as the ultimate end of our work. This new approach was originally suggested by the library's recent assessment projects, and it is reflected in the new LSFY information literacy outcomes, as well as new teaching strategies for library sessions in LSFY and beyond.
At the same time, we know and understand that the process of research writing ties writing and information literacy so closely together that students cannot possibly grasp the skills they need from library visits alone. On March 14 (week 1 of spring term), Lucas Street and Stefanie Bluemle will lead a Friday Conversation about student source use inspired by their experience as judges for the Tredway Library Prize for First-Year Research, which attracts some of the very best essays by our LSFY and Honors students. They will discuss what these papers, and Lucas's work in the Reading/Writing Center, have taught them about Augustana students' engagement with sources, and use their observations as a springboard for a larger discussion.
That Friday Conversation is the precursor to an April 4-5 visit by Sandra Jamieson herself. Jamieson will lead a workshop for Augustana faculty at the April 4 Friday Conversation and present the keynote address at the library's conference, New Directions in Information Fluency, on the morning of April 5.
We at Tredway hope you will join us for some or all of these upcoming events! In the meantime, if you have questions or want to start a conversation about student source use, please get in touch with your liaison librarian.