Texts and Networks

Download the Texts and Networks assignment guidelines (PDF)

Supplementary and example handouts are available in Blackboard in the Handout folder.


  • In-class draft sharing: April 26
  • Peer-review draft: April 28, 10:00 PM
  • Peer-review: May 2, 10:00 PM
  • Revised draft: May 9, 10:00 PM

General Assignment

For our final project in the class, you will each look at how texts exist within a number of networks: discourse communities, practices of use, and citation systems. We’re going to focus on academic texts because we have better tools for analyzing circulation than with other genres.

Getting Started

First, create a research log that records the answers to the 9 items below:

1.  Select a text with references (any field or discipline; preferably one you have an interest in and some knowledge of; you may wish to continue your field investigation by selecting a text you looked at but didn’t use in the presentation. Feel free to draw on a text you are using for research in another course). Choose a text published between 1995 and 2010. Do check scholar.google.com — the text you pick must have been cited by other writers after publication (look for a minimum of 3 citations).

Record the bibliographic information.


Title: Rhetoric and ideology in the writing class

Author(s): James Berlin

Source: College English. Vol. 50, No. 5 (Sept., 1988), pp. 477-494

2. Write a brief (1-2 paragraph) annotation that provides a basic overview of the article. Be sure to convey the main argument, and if appropriate the methods and the stated use or value of the work.

3. Write a short description of the source (most likely a journal) — what is the audience? How many copies are published? Where is it indexed? Is it connected to an academic organization or specific institution? Is this considered a top-tier journal in the field?

Go to Google Scholar and record the number of times cited and number of versions available.

If the journal appears in the ISI Web of Knowledge, record the information about it and see if your article is in the database and record the citation indexing information. For help on using the Web of Knowledge for cited reference searching, please see the GMU Library Infoguide Cited Reference Searching: Web of Knowledge.

4. Select 3 “non-perfunctory” citations within your text and copy the relevant passage, e.g.

“Here I will rely on Goran Therborn’s usage in the ideology of power and the power of ideology. Therborn, a Marxist sociologist at the university of Lund, Sweden, calls on the discussion of ideology found in Louis Althusser and on the discussion of power in Michel Foucault. I have chosen Therborn’s adaptation of Althusser rather than Althusser himself because Therborn so effectively counters the ideology of science distinction” (478).

In this example, the reference is to the work by Therborn and references page 478 in that text.

Also copy the entry for this reference from the works cited list.

5. Using Robillard’s explication of citation use (PDF in the Blackboard Handouts folder), answer the following questions for each citation:

What is the citation doing? (e.g. how does it support the main argument? Or is it mediated by the author if it does not support the argument? Recall Latour’s explanation of how authors work with citations to achieve specific goals.)

  • What does it do for the author?
  • What does it do for the cited author?
  • What does it do for the reader?

6. Now (for each citation) go to the referenced work. Is the actual quote or paraphrase accurate? How is it being manipulated (if at all) relative to the original source? Finally, were there any errors or inconsistencies in the way it is listed in your article’s works cited list?

7. Do a bit of research on your article’s author(s) and the cited author(s). What relationship, if any, exists between the author and the person or persons cited?

8. Now that we’ve looked back to the cites in your article, it’s time to look forward and see who has cited it. Using scholar.google.com, identify the number of formal citations of your chosen article. Select 3 representative samples and briefly report on how those works use your original article.

9. What non-formal citations or uses can you find? Search for the title and author-title combination on a regular search engine (e.g. just plain old google.com). Where else do references to your article show up (e.g. syllabi, blog posts, news articles, twitter feeds, etc.)?

Drafting Your Project

Once you have collected all the data outlined in the steps above, craft a report that shows your findings.

  • Your intro should note the purpose of your project here and potentially connect it to the academic field your article contributes to.  (Two sample introductions are available as a handout in Blackboard.)
  • Create appropriate headings for the findings sections and show what you found. (Two examples, one for question 5 and one for question 6, are available as handouts in Blackboard.)
  • Your conclusion should be a reflection of what you’ve learned about the functions of citation and about the making circulation of knowledge within an academic field or discipline. Discuss your findings and how you might use this information to further your own writing goals and activities.

An example organization structure or the report might look like:

Introduction (to the report – what does this data analysis show?)

Background – main article summary, basic information about publication venue and audience

Looking Back: Citations Used in the Article (make up a better heading title)

Citation 1

discussion of information gleaned from analysis (write this up; don’t just post raw data. use headings as appropriate – you can also combine some of those nine elements of data you collected)

Citation 2


Citation 3


Looking Forward: Citations of the Article (make up a better heading title)

Citation 1




In-class Draft Sharing

Please bring one copy of your project to class where we will share our work. The focus of this in-class draft sharing is to see what other students are doing with the project rather than to provide feedback. For everyone, including yourself, to get the most benefit from this activity, please bring a full, complete draft.

Peer Review

Your peer-review draft should be a complete, revised, and edited draft of your project.

Please submit your peer-review draft via Blackboard using the File Exchange tool to within your assigned Texts and Networks Project Peer-review Group.

Instructor-review Draft

Based upon your peer-review, revise your project at least once.

Please submit your essay as an attachment via the Assignments tool in Blackboard.


This assignment and its supplementary materials were designed by Doug Eyman for previous versions of this course.