Using Citation Analysis in Writing Center Tutorials to Encourage Deeper Engagement with Sources
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Before I became a writing center director, I remember in my own work as a tutor feeling frustrated when students brought in research papers. Most of the students’ questions had to do with formatting the bibliographic entries or parenthetical notes, but I would often notice that the sources used to support thesis statements were seemingly arbitrarily chosen (perhaps an encyclopedia entry, two news stories from questionable news outlets, and a couple of other random web sources, such as a blog entry and an organization’s website) and often not used effectively to support points. For example, it was not unusual to see very lengthy blocked quotations and quotations dropped into paragraphs with no signal phrases and no interpretation or analysis. I would try to steer sessions toward discussion of more scholarly ways to use source material, but I seldom felt that those discussions went anywhere. When I asked about the high proportion of quoted material, most students told me something along the lines of, “My professor said quoting is good“ or “I don’t have time to write a good paraphrase—my paper is due in an hour. Can you just check my MLA format?” On the odd occasion when a student did seem interested in working with their source integration, I was at a loss for strategies to use and often resorted to lecturing the student on how to paraphrase. My fellow tutors had no suggestions, and the standard tutoring guides of the time didn’t address helping students with research.1 I also wondered if it was within my purview as a writing tutor to talk with students about their source choices and their source use. None of my training or reading about tutoring had dealt with how to help students with their source use.