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Tutoring Session...

As most of you probably know, I am tutoring my housemate/landlord, Nancy. She went back to school to get her degree in Business Management & Accounting. She’s attending AIU Online, taking internet classes. Currently, she’s working through her 5 week course in English. This has been, by far, one of her hardest classes, because in school she has never been good at English, so I’ve been giving her some extra time here and there, to go over her work with her.

This week we would be working on her group assignment for her English course, which was to review and critique a classmate’s assignment. She expressed some concern to me earlier in the week that she thought most of it was copied. I blew off her comments, thinking she might have been exaggerating a bit, and wanted to wait until she was ready to review the assignment with me so we could go over the questions she wasn’t sure she could answer. Last night we went over that assignment.

I cannot even imagine where to begin to tell you what was wrong with this paper. How about everything? That might seem harsh, but that’s pretty much right down to it. Her topic was fine. Her thesis statement wasn’t a statement, it was a paragraph. That paragraph was copied text from one of the articles she used as references, and not only that the entire paper was copied directly from her references, placed in such a haphazard way that no point was made and no coherency could be found. It was an exercise in trying to make heads or tails out of what she was attempting to accomplish.

Given the entire thing was plagiarized, she cited some things but did not cite others, I encouraged Nancy to email her instructor right away. Her assignment was to answer a series of 10 questions based on the paper, how to improve it, etc, etc, and to edit it for grammar and spelling mistakes. Nancy answered the questions, but those 10 questions need to be posted publicly on their discussion board, and it pretty much calls the girl out for being a cheater. That’s not something I think Nancy wants to contend with.

I’m sitting here attempting to wrap my head around why she thought she could get away with doing something like that. Doesn’t she realize that people will check the references? What did she have to gain by writing the entire paper that way?

So, that makes me wonder, for you teachers out there, how many students have you run across who have tried to pass off their paper as their own work, when in actuality most, or all, of it was copied?


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 10th, 2007 02:17 pm (UTC)
Wow - now, Beena has tried to get away with stuff like that, but...she's 10, and it's our job as parents to catch her, make her do it over again so that she learns now.

An adult should know better. An adult should have learned by now. Though I understand that Nancy would not want to call out her classmate in a public forum, she should email her professor immediately and point out the issue, and as for guidance on what she should do in light of the current assignment without humiliating her classmate.

Or at least, that's what I would do...and what I would have preferred of my students when I was teaching.
Aug. 10th, 2007 03:37 pm (UTC)
"Doesn't she realize that people will check the references?"

In my experience, no, most people won't (unless it was an instruction for the assignment). In my Journalism classes we came close, since every fact needed to have a source, but only those facts that seemed really dubious were actually checked.

On the other hand, in the Real World, you'd expect more. But no. Even in the Journalism world, the same mentality applies -- there's simply not enough time or resources to check all the references. As long as you're providing sources, only the very best agencies will check all the facts at all times. (Watch the AP wire sometime for a list of corrections. The stories for them are researched, written and published within an hour if not half.)
Aug. 10th, 2007 05:04 pm (UTC)
My dad once had 2 high school students turn in the exact same paper, except for their names. And then got pressure from the headmaster because one of the students was the daughter of the school founder. So instead of flunking them outright, he had to give them the opportunity to redo the assignment. Which I thought was wrong. They cheated, they deserved F's.

A few plagiarists may not understand that what they're doing is wrong. Most are lazy, and/or assume no one will check sources.

I agree she should definitely contact the prof, as mnfiddledragon said.
Aug. 10th, 2007 07:21 pm (UTC)
       Eh, not to play the devil's advocate but nowadays, you can't write an assignment with original thoughts or research or you know, content. Even in college. It has to be all compiled from other people's writings. I mean, that's always been the concept of academic writing, but it just gets more and more stifled and restrictive.

       And, semi-jokingly, I've heard it said that the difference between an A paper and an E paper is quotes. Or the difference between plagarism and genius is putting quotes around the stuff you rip off. I've met more than one student who came from another country, or a lower socio-economic background that just...didn't get 'it'. They don't have the background and functional structure of academics or scholarly foundation to see the (rather fine) distinction between plagarism and not, when told to steal other people's ideas in order to communicate their thoughts.

       Obviously I don't know this person and didn't read their paper. But...it really is a cultural construct and one that makes absolutely no sense unless you were raised in a tradition of scholarly/academic institution.

Aug. 12th, 2007 08:52 pm (UTC)
This paper wasn't paraphrased. It wasn't about stolen ideas. The text was copied, word for word, in its entirty. But I get what you're saying, somewhat.
Aug. 11th, 2007 12:07 am (UTC)
I've had students copy each other and I had one student copy a short story from online (and then sell another copied story to another student).

I however have not (thankfully) run into plagiarism to the degree you are discussing with Nancy's paper. Maybe because as English Majors, we want to express our own ideas more then we want to reference other peoples. The one thing I do notice with people who are not English majors in my education classes now is that some people do not know how to properly paraphrase without it being plagiarism.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


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