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What Is The Citation Project?

The Citation Project is a multi-institution research project responding to educators’ concerns about plagiarism and the teaching of writing. Although much has been written on this topic and many have expressed concerns, little empirical data is available to describe what students are actually doing with their sources. At present, therefore, educators must make 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. Our research team systematically studies randomly selected, source-based student papers from a range of different institutions. Our purpose is to describe how student writers use the sources they cite in their papers. 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 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.