Writing from Sources, Writing from Sentences


  • Rebecca Moore Howard Syracuse University
  • Tricia Serviss Auburn University
  • Tanya K. Rodrigue Wheaton College




plagiarism, student research, composition instruction, writing from sources, summary, paraphrase, quotation, copying, patchwriting


Instead of focusing on students’ citation of sources, educators should attend to the more fundamental question of how well students understand their sources and whether they are able to write about them without appropriating language from the source. Of the 18 student research texts we studied, none included summary of a source, raising questions about the students’ critical reading practices. Instead of summary, which is highly valued in academic writing and is promoted in composition textbooks, the students paraphrased, copied from, or patchwrote from individual sentences in their sources. Writing from individual sentences places writers in constant jeopardy of working too closely with the language of the source and thus inadvertently plagiarizing; and it also does not compel the writer to understand the source.

Author Biographies

Rebecca Moore Howard, Syracuse University

Rebecca Moore Howard was awarded the PhD in English by West Virginia University. She is now Professor of Writing and Rhetoric at Syracuse University, and her scholarship focuses on authorship studies, especially students’ use of sources.

Tricia Serviss, Auburn University

Tricia Serviss was awarded the PhD in Composition and Cultural Rhetoric by Syracuse University and is now Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Composition at Auburn University. Her dissertation reveals how the definition of and possibilities for literacy are constructed in disparate localities.

Tanya K. Rodrigue, Wheaton College

Tanya K. Rodrigue earned her PhD in Composition and Cultural Rhetoric at Syracuse University. Her doctoral dissertation examines the role and needs of teaching assistants in writing across the curriculum. She is Andrew W.Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Composition and Rhetoric at Wheaton College


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How to Cite

Howard, R. M., Serviss, T., & Rodrigue, T. K. (2010). Writing from Sources, Writing from Sentences. Writing and Pedagogy, 2(2), 177–192. https://doi.org/10.1558/wap.v2i2.177



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