I just read an amazing interview with the two leaders of the Citation Project, where they discussed some of their findings. One of the things that really caught my eye was the location - in terms of the page in the article - where many students are pulling their citations from.
Based on their analysis of 1,911 citations (from 174 student papers), 46% are from the first page of the source being cited. 70% come from the first two pages. The researchers argue that this is important because it suggests that students are not engaged with the full text. Instead, they may be pulling a fact from an abstract or the introduction, which is located on these first two pages, but not understanding the context associated with that fact.
I can’t say that I find any of this surprising, but it’s certainly interesting to see it backed up by a study of actual student papers. It also shows that we need to go beyond making sure that students know how to cite something properly to making sure that they really analyze the source that they are using. So much information literacy instruction to do … so little time.