Textual appropriation in two discipline-specific undergraduate writings


  • Ling Shi University of British Columbia




textual borrowing, source use, citing behaviors, disciplinary writing, text-based interviews


Research has explored how scholars use citations to write intertextually across disciplines but have rarely compared how students, especially undergraduates, appropriate source texts in their writing in arts versus sciences. This study explores textual appropriation and source use in disciplinary writing of second language undergraduates in a North American university. Two samples of undergraduate writing were analyzed. One is a biology paper written by Cary to summarize a scientific concept or statement, and the other is an essay in Film Studies written by Martin on a topic of his own choosing. Text-based interviews were conducted to solicit participants’ comments and explanations of how they used source texts in completing the two specific disciplinary writing tasks. Results suggest different citing behaviors between the two students in terms of the types of sources they used (textbooks, monographs, and non-reading sources), the format of textual borrowing (quoting versus paraphrasing), and reasons for citing and not citing (e.g., to use others’ words or ideas versus expressing one’s own ideas or knowledge). The paper ends with an example of an assignment designed to help students explore how to make citation decisions in disciplinary writing.

Author Biography

Ling Shi, University of British Columbia

Ling Shi is a Professor at the Department of Language and Education of the University of British Columbia.


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How to Cite

Shi, L. (2016). Textual appropriation in two discipline-specific undergraduate writings. Writing and Pedagogy, 8(1), 91–116. https://doi.org/10.1558/wap.v8i1.27207



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