Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Article Note: On Citation Analysis for Composition Studies

Citation for the article:

Coffey, Daniel P. "A Discipline's Composition: A Citation Analysis of Composition Studies." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 32.2 (March 2006): 155-165.

Read the article via ScienceDirect.

Given that freshman composition classes are the library's major client when it comes to instruction, it made sense to see what new insights I could gain about composition teachers. I will say that I taught composition briefly at the college level, and I was also a high school composition teacher. Additionally, I studied composition and rhetoric during my previous life as a graduate student in English. I will admit it was not the most enjoyable part of that life. If you want to know, ask me privately sometime, but I will leave that out of here. But I am always looking for new insights. Now, the article is focused more on composition studies scholarship, meaning not so much on the trench operators and more on the theorists of composition. As an additional note, the list of works sampled for the study, which is provided in an appendix, makes a useful resource for possible collection development.

Coffey states that "the purpose of the study is to provide insight into the research and publishing characteristics of composition scholars" (155). The article definitely provides a good start in that area; it also provides at the end a series of suggestions for further research, some of which do sound intriguing. Coffey suggests as well that this knowledge is significant for librarians because it can help them to better provide resources for composition scholars. In addition, it can help enhance their knowledge of information literacy instruction.

As a note to myself, the article cites another article by James K. Elmborg, who also wrote the article on critical information literacy that I recently read. The context for Coffey is that he cites Elmborg's work as an example of an article calling for librarians to collaborate more with composition studies people. I may have to take a look at that article.

Coffey's article provides a good historical overview of the composition studies field. This is helpful for any librarian who has recently acquired comp. & rhet. liaison duties but who may have little background on the subject. Coffey then goes on to explain his methodology and results. If this is an area of interest, librarians should take a look at this article.

Some notes from the article's discussion:
  • "As noted earlier, composition studies scholars have a tendency to use journals as citable resources to a significantly higher degree than their colleagues in other humanities disciplines, particularly, and most importantly, literary studies" (161).
  • "Part of what makes composition scholars unique is that their research is not completely encapsulated within the disciplinary realm of the humanities. The nature of much of what they study and write falls into the area of education, if not sociology: the dynamics of the social structures in which students develop their writing abilities" (162).

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