Why I won’t write your essay for you

Never say young millenials are timid or lacking initiative, writes Megan McArdle on Bloomberg View. They have the chutzpah to ask random strangers, such as columnists and academics, to write their essays on carbon taxes, global warming the Affordable Care Act, the Federal Reserve, etc.

“Some petitioners helpfully include the structure and word count they are looking for,” she writes.

In a three-paragraph essay, with topic sentence, explanation and conclusion, McArdle explains why she’s not doing their work for them.

“The first reason that I am not going to do your homework for you is that I have already graduated from high school,” she writes. “Now I have plain old work, which actually takes up quite a bit of my time.”

Homework assignments teach valuable lessons, such as “how to a) find information and figure out what it means and b) do things you don’t particularly enjoy,” she adds.

Finally, it wouldn’t do any good to turn in an essay written by a professional, McArdle advises. “Your teacher is apt to notice the sudden improvement in your prose and research skills.”

How to talk to kids about cheating

Cheating ramps up during middle school, where just over 60 percent of students reported cheating on exams and 90 percent admitted to copying another students’ homework,” writes Jessica Lahey. In high school, 75 percent of students admit to academic dishonesty. Parents should talk to their children about cheating.

Don’t assume your child understands the difference between collaborating and cheating, paraphrasing and plagiarism. Brush up on the definition of plagiarism and the reason we give others credit for their work. Discuss the realities of cheating: Academic dishonesty can destroy her reputation as an honorable person, not to mention her relationships with teachers.

Next, ask why she’s cheating and discuss your concerns with the teacher, Lahey advises. Most parents resort to denial when their child is accused of cheating.  Admitting it will “go a long way toward reinforcing the partnership between you and your child’s teacher.”

Don’t help too much with homework. One in five adults admits completing part of a child’s homework assignment.  “Let your child discover her own answers.”

Finally, if you catch your child cheating, don’t cover for her. Take this opportunity, while she is still young and the stakes are still low, to hold her accountable for the consequences of her actions.

Lisa Heffernan, writer of the parenting blog Grown and Flown, offers advice for parents: Convince your kids they’d rather face “my short-lived disappointment with a poor grade rather than my devastation, humiliation and sadness at my failures in parenting and their faulty moral compass.”

Plagiarism as a science

Courtesy of EducationNews.Org, we learn that TurnItIn.com issued a report recently about plagiarism.

The most interesting thing about the report is its taxonomy of plagiarism — ten tidy little categories that neatly lay out various ways that students academically misbehave.  We’re told which are the most common and which are of the most concern to educators.

The conclusion of the report is a little underwhelming — teachers should be clear about their academic standards — but the taxonomy is a neat way of thinking about the issue.

It’s not the only way, of course, and it’s a little cartoonish, but if you’re not going to sit down and do semi-rigorous conceptual analysis of academic dishonesty, it’s a great place to start.

Plagiarists rely on social media

Plagiarism Report

Cheating is easy in digital age

It’s too tough to transfer

It’s too tough to transfer from community college to a four-year college or university. Only 10 percent of students who start at community college complete a bachelor’s degree.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  Rio Salado College has developed its own plagiarism detector.

Cheating is the norm

All of My Favorite Students Cheat, writes Christopher Doyle, who’s taught for 25 years, in Education Week.

They copy homework (the most frequent form of dishonesty), crib on tests (second-most-favored tactic), and lift text from the Internet (either verbatim or with minor changes in wording). There have been a few outliers who refuse to engage in it. Ironically, I encounter them most often in so-called “lower level” classes.

Six years ago, he started teaching at a suburban, upper-middle-class, high-achieving public high school.

One of my students lifted three paragraphs from my own review of a book assigned in advanced-placement U.S. history class. He took the review from a website, ignored my name on the byline of the journal in which it appeared, and pasted it into his essay. I caught three other plagiarists that first year, but no one else was so brazen (or maybe he was just in a hurry).

Savvy students denigrate that plagiarist. “It’s stupid to get caught taking things from the Internet,” one told me. “No one should be doing that” because it lacks subtlety. They rationalize other forms of cheating as more acceptable. Some claim thoughtless pedagogy justifies their own copying of homework. “We aren’t going to respect teachers who give us photocopied worksheets as ‘busywork.’ We’re not going to waste our time doing that.” Others assert they are “sticking it to the man,” who makes them overwork. Still others say that “as long as we do well on the tests, the homework doesn’t matter.” Grades are “the bottom line.”

Doyle’s students believe they need to get into a prestigious college and therefore need to get excellent grades in AP classes, while piling up extracurricular activities and taking SAT prep classes. They can’t do it all without cheating.

Yet they do feel guilty about it, Doyle writes. They want to succeed without cheating, but don’t believe they can.


Science Goddess created an activity to help teachers learn how to teach Washington state’s new science standards.  Her professional development plan has been plagiarized — “just wholesale stealing with no credit offered or permission requested.”

Zero percent plagiarism

I knew students were buying essays online, but I didn’t know this had become a massive industry. From a recent AFP article:

A Google search for “buy term paper” turned up 183 million sites, some of which, such as acceptedpapers.com, offer to write students’ papers for them when they are “unable to be creative for an essay” or would “rather enjoy a night out than write a book report at the library.”

Another service, perfecttermpapers.com, offers hard-pressed students “non-plagiarized research papers and term papers within your deadline… written by qualified American writers” for prices starting at around eight dollars.

Of course, kids who don’t want to write their own essays may not be able to distinguish between a good essay and a terrible one. One essay on dreamessays.com comparing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to Catcher in the Rye begins with the sentence, “The forthcoming of American literature proposes two distinct Realistic novels portraying characters which are tested with a plethora of adventures.”

It’s pretty easy to see how this happens. Anyone who is willing to write an essay for eight dollars will probably want to crank it out quickly. And the fancier-sounding the words, the more easily the student will be fooled.

The student may be fooled in more than one way. Accepted Papers guarantees the following:

– 0% plagiarism
– No cut-paste material
– No bogus citations
– Your term papers will not found in any database

Zero percent plagiarism! Shouldn’t Accepted Papers be legally required to disclose that it is plagiarism to turn in someone else’s essay as one’s own?

In their FAQ they state, “Our philosophy consists of understanding the needs of our clients, offering excellent quality services and continuous satisfaction.”

I suppose the “continuous satisfaction” would be broken if they told the kids they were doing something wrong.

Butt-saving web tools

MakeUseOf‘s Web Tools To Save Your Butt In School includes a tool that tells students if they’ve “plagiarized too much” and are likely to show up a turnitin plagiarism check.

Another program creates a fake file that can’t be opened.

. . . when your professor can’t open the file up, you can just blame it on your computer. Of course, many teachers are starting to not accept these excuses, so be careful when using this. This web tool allows you to spend hours browsing MakeUseOf instead of working on that stupid project.

Some of the other web tools are useful for actual students.