Skip to content

What Is The Citation Project?

The Citation Project conducts multi-institution research responding in various ways to educators’ concerns about plagiarism, information literacy, and the teaching of source-based writing. Although much has been written on these topics and many have expressed concern, little empirical data is available to describe what students are actually doing with their sources. This leaves educators too often making policy decisions and pedagogy based on anecdote, personal observation, media reports, and the claims of corporations that sell “solutions.”

The Citation Project begins the process of providing descriptive data drawn from research on a collection of randomly selected, source-based student papers from a range of different institutions. Initial research explored how first-year student writers incorporate ideas from the sources they cite in their papers, and what the selected sources reveal about their information literacy skills. Follow-up research has explored how in-service teachers understand source-based writing. With this information, educators will be able to make informed decisions about best practices for formulating plagiarism policies and for teaching rhetorically effective and ethically responsible methods of selecting and writing from sources.

Preventing plagiarism is a desired outcome of our research, as the subtitle above indicates, but the Citation Project research suggests that students’ knowing how to understand and synthesize complex, lengthy sources is essential to effective plagiarism prevention. If instructors know how shallowly students are engaging with their research source—and that is what the Citation Project research reveals—then they know what responsible pedagogy needs to address.