Originality of Expression and Formal Citation Practices

Perceptions of Students and Professors


  • Ling Shi University of British Columbia




plagiarism, original expressions, citation practices, words vs. ideas, interviews, University writing


Based on the theory of dialogism (Bakhtin, 1981) and intertextuality (Kristeva, 1986), this study explores students’ and professors’ thoughts about formal citation practices based on their comments on whether certain words from source materials need to be acknowledged as others’ words in student writing. A total of 75 students and faculty members at a North American university were interviewed to comment on five examples of language re-use in some undergraduate writing. Participants’ comments focused on how they valued and distinguished (a) between words and ideas, (b) between words representing specialized concepts and words forming a grammatical structure, and (c) between specialized or newly coined words and words that have become widespread since their creation in a specific subject area. The study suggests the complexity of original expression and makes visible what individual students and professors are considering in their citation practices. The study further suggests that writing pedagogy needs to move from rule following to judgment and defense of judgment.

Author Biography

Ling Shi, University of British Columbia

Ling Shi holds a Ph.D. from the Ontario Institute of Education affiliated to the University of Toronto in Canada. She is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Language and Literacy at the University of British Columbia. Her research focuses on second language writing and she has recently published in Applied Linguistics, Research in the Teaching of English, and Assessing Writing.


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How to Cite

Shi, L. (2012). Originality of Expression and Formal Citation Practices: Perceptions of Students and Professors. Writing and Pedagogy, 4(1), 43–67. https://doi.org/10.1558/wap.v4i1.43



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