Greatest Hits from the Teaching with Writing Blog: Writing with Sources

Daniel Emery

The Teaching with Writing Blog uses categories to describe the contents of previous entries to assist readers in finding timely and appropriate resources. In this March Blog Post, we’ll reissue some of the most popular and cited posts on working with sources.

Why are these hits? Why a reissue?

As instructors and writers ourselves, we know that access to online resources makes it easy to receive thousands of books, articles, chapters, and websites on almost any research topic. At the same time, this ease can lead to unintended negative consequences, especially for novice researchers, as the advertising models used by search engines, the tendency to default to early entries on search results, and the habit of completing search activity before writing a draft can limit what students see and read.

One of the more glaring weaknesses of AI Chatbots is their inability to access source material behind paywalls, meaning much of the writing available from researchers and professionals is outside the scope of its statistical analysis. Requiring students to engage deeply with source material in their writing can help to keep students focused on the ways they are better thinkers and writers than even the speediest text generator.

Many instructors aid their students by pointing to the databases and content aggregators from the University of Minnesota Libraries or subject matter guides to research. Still, explanations of why sources are used and how sources can be integrated into writing tasks can be as important as knowing where to look. The following four posts can help instructors provide those explanations.

Forwarding as a Metaphor for Textual Activity (January 2018): Addresses four common functions for using source materials (Illustrating, authorizing, borrowing, and extending) to help students understand the functions of source use in academic writing.

Guiding Literature Reviews (November 2016): Teaching Writing through Reading Part 2 (November 2016): Explores literature reviews as a standard and source-intensive writing assignment and addresses the critical components of text selection, sequencing, summarizing, and synthesis.

Affirmative Approaches to Reference, Attribution, and Citation (April 2019): Foregrounds the importance of reference, attribution, and citation of sources as elements of effective research activity. While students often recognize that failure to cite violates instructor expectations and institutional norms, this post emphasizes how attribution and reference advance scholarship and knowledge.

Documentation: Consistency or Correctness (February 2016): Investigates the potential causes of persistent citation errors and offers recommendations for improving student performance with citations.

Additional Resources

For additional helpful advice on search strategies, check out the student-facing Tutorials section of the UMN Libraries page and the Instruction Support library page for faculty and instructors.

We also recommend the Documenting Sources section of UMN Twin Cities Student Writing Support’s quick help page for student-facing resources on documenting sources and citations.

Further Support

See the Teaching with Writing web pages or teaching resources. As many of you know, our WAC program also hosts the popular Teaching with Writing event series. Each semester, this series offers free workshops and discussions. Visit us online and follow us on Twitter @UMNWriting.

Are you looking to change up writing assignments or grading strategies? Talk to us! We like thinking with faculty members, instructors, and TA/GIs about all matters related to teaching with writing in courses across the University curriculum. Do you have questions about writing assignments and activities, grading writing, providing feedback, or using digital tools? Contact us to schedule a phone, email, or face-to-face teaching consultation.