Writing Centers, Ethics, and Excessive Research

Elizabeth Kleinfeld, Metropolitan State College of Denver



My work as Writing Center Director at Metropolitan State College of Denver (Metro State) is constantly impacted by my work as a contributing researcher on The Citation Project, a nationwide study of student citation practices led by Rebecca Moore Howard and Sandra Jamieson. Three of the Project findings especially resonated for me:

These findings are particularly relevant for digital media because the majority of sources cited by students in the study are digital.Indeed, the Citation Project simply confirms and quantifies what those of us who teach research writing and/or work in writing centers already knew: students’ research processes often begin and end with a simple Google search and the top search returns—regardless of those sources’ appropriateness or scholarly legitimacy—receive the most attention from students.

In this webtext, I will discuss how recent research on student source usage, with particular attention to both the findings and methodology of the Citation Project, resonates with writing center work. This webtext is organized into four sections, which can be read in any order:

It is commonly accepted that tutors should intervene in students’ writing processes (see for example Geller, et. al., 2007; Harris, 1986); however, I intend to argue that the easy availability of and students’ dependence on digital sources necessitates that we include students’ research practices as our territory as well. I will argue that not only are students’ research practices legitimate territory for Writing Centers to intervene in, but that we have an ethical responsibility to do so.