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The Ethics of Teaching Rhetorical Intertextuality

Abstract

Three approaches to intertextual writing are available to college instructors: mechanical, ethical, and rhetorical. The mechanical approach, a staple of writing instruction, teaches the use of citation styles such as MLA or APA; methods of citing sources; and the conventions of quotation. The ethical approach is primarily concerned with the character of individual writers and their adherence to community standards categorized as “academic integrity.” The great majority of source-based writing instruction attends to one or both of these approaches. A third approach, rhetorical intertextuality, is overshadowed by the ethical concerns that currently permeate educational institutions. Rhetorical intertextuality does promote textual ethics, but in a positive way, through instruction in building meaning in a target text through collaboration with source texts. Rhetorical intertextuality brings the source texts themselves to life (rather than merely mining them for information) and aims to engage the audience in a conversation with target text and source texts. Drawing on Citation Project data, we advocate instruction in intertextual writing that hails students as authors, not transgressors. Rhetorical intertextuality can provide a positive frame for college instruction in intertextual writing, one that facilitates deep engagement with texts; intellectual approaches to paraphrasing and summarizing; and an emphasis on the rhetorical choices that writers make as they encounter and respond to the ideas of others. The objective of such instruction is a dialogic interface between writer, audience, and sources—a conversation.

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Notes

  1. See CitationProject.net for information about Citation Project studies, research methods, findings, and analysis.

  2. Although the methods are different, the coding categories used in both distant language coding (drawn from Franco Moretti’s distant reading) and human coding (which uses close reading strategies) require very specific definitions, which often include word counts and percentages to ensure consistency. The Citation Project uses human coding, combining close reading with double-coding and regular calibration sessions. To ensure consistency and replicability, the definitions used by coders include the percentages listed here. Citation Project researchers do not endorse the application of percentages to determine originality or to assess student writing in educational contexts. While they may be a useful as a general guide for students who are learning the nuances of mechanical intertextuality, percentages and word counts should be employed as part of close reading, not distant reading by software programs.

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Howard, R.M., Jamieson, S. The Ethics of Teaching Rhetorical Intertextuality. J Acad Ethics 19, 385–405 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10805-021-09424-2

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Keywords

  • Citation Project
  • Rhetorical intertextuality
  • Patchwriting
  • Plagiarism