Citation practices of L2 writers in first-year writing courses: Form, rhetorical function, and connection with pedagogical materials

Jie Gao, Adriana Picoral, Shelley Staples, Lindsey Macdonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Citation practices are an important part of academic writing, and undergraduate writers often struggle to effectively integrate citation forms and functions into their writing. While many studies have focused on citation use by English as a first language (L1) student writers, English as a second language (L2) writers at advanced levels, and published writers, less is known about how undergraduate L2 writers use citations across assignments in First-Year Writing contexts, particularly in relation to the pedagogical materials provided by classroom teachers. Using a corpus of 74 papers, this study sheds light on how L2 writers’ citations vary in form and rhetorical function across two assignments (Literature Review and Research Paper) and two instructors. We also examine how students’ citation practices are influenced by the pedagogical materials provided for each assignment (N = 22). After manually coding student writers’ citation practices and instructors’ pedagogical materials, findings show that both assignment type and instructor play a role in L2 writers’ citation choices. Generally, writers in our study use integral citations (e.g., “Author (YEAR) argues that …”) more frequently in the Literature Review assignment. Non=integral citations, characterized by researchers’ names at the end of a sentence, are found in the Research Paper assignment at a higher frequency. Students also make use of hybrid citations, not previously discussed in the literature, but which are a combination of integral and non-integral citations. In terms of rhetorical function, attribution only (the baseline function of a citation, indicating an attribution to an external source) is most frequently used across assignments, and other functions were found much less frequently. These findings are discussed in light of an analysis of pedagogical materials, which emphasize citation form. Model student papers also show a direct relationship with students’ citation practices. Implications for L2 writing pedagogy design include a need for more diversified pedagogical support in the classroom.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100005
JournalApplied Corpus Linguistics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Citation practices
  • Second language writing
  • Writing pedagogy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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