Sunday, February 27, 2011

Last-Minute Larry Strikes Again

After the last time we encountered Larry, I thought I'd seen the bottom limit of snowflakery. That incident was anticlimactic, as so many of them are: he turned in a terrible assignment, received a zero, asked why...and finally clued in to the fact he'd sent me that thoroughly idiotic e-mail. He was embarrassed enough to not even request extra credit.

This evening, I receive an e-mail asking if I would please review the sources for his midterm paper, check if they pass the test of "scholarly and peer-reviewed." The assignment's due at midnight, but I'm once again in a good, mellow place. He got my name right, so I take a look. They're all unpromising webpage links, and I shake my head. I follow them anyway.

I am led to the blog of a former student. This former student has, for some unfathomable reason, posted her papers for others to enjoy. At the top of each post:

Paper #: Elementary Basketweaving for Nonmajors. Prof. Batavia.

Why, Larry? WHY?


  1. That's even worse than the time one of my students had on his works cited page.

  2. Hur, your Larry is as much of a gem as my Neddy.

  3. Bad ... but I still think I have a Hall of Shame (and utter stupidity) winner with the student who cribbed my dissertation!

  4. A&S: I'd be more surprised by that if I hadn't noticed that many students don't seem to be aware of the genders of the authors of articles they read. Even when the author is named something like "Sally," a third of the class inevitably refers to her as "he," until one of their more-aware classmates raises his or her hand and says "isn't the author a woman?"

    But yes, that *is* particularly stupid, as is citing echeat or the like.

    I suspect that Larry, on the other hand, suspects that the mention of the professor's name makes these "sources" more credible. I've found that my students have a concept of authority that is very much tied to names and credentials and titles (and very little associated, despite my careful explanations of same, with the processes involved in designing and conducting research and having it reviewed -- which theoretically can be completed by anyone, though the training and resources that credentials and titles represent certainly make it much more likely that one will complete the process successfully).

  5. Yet another case of life just handing you material. Let me guess: Larry has two pals called Moe and Curly? Ngaaaaaaa...

  6. @Contingent Cassandra, the reason your students assume all authors are male is because they think women are busy with that birth thing.

  7. I have been thinking about posting plagiarized work on my office "wanted" posters.

  8. To be fair, his source WAS peer-reviewed. By you!

    But thanks for this. Our campus is leaping onto the "e-portfolio" bandwagon, which is going to make exactly this happenstance ever more common...

  9. @DrN: you're right about that. Google Scholar, which I generally like, but which, like all tools, requires judgment to be used effectively, picks up a lot of undergraduate and masters' these, presumably because they have .edu addresses. If the contents of the e-portfolios are publicly available (for which there is a real argument; at least theoretically, doing this gives students a real audience), it will no doubt pick those up as well.

  10. @ isyvoo - did they argue for partial credit based on a correct citation? Remember: it's not plagiarism if it's cited!

    @ whatladder - I hope I'll handle Larry with as much grace as you have addressed Neddy!

    @ Aware and Scared - I had a student turn in a dissertation from our university, from my department. It was hilarious. My colleague felt flattered...and furious.

    @ Contingent Cassandra - I have found the same pattern regarding gender. I've also run in to students who want to know the race of the author, and judge creditability based on that. Quite annoying.

    @ Froderick - I'll get to tales of Larry and Curly soon, just wait.

    @ BlackDog - I will keep this in mind for when I'm a full-timer somewhere.

    @ Dr. Nathaniel - I am somewhat in favor of e-portfolios under some circumstances, but this event makes me worry about the ease of plagiarism. I think I'll be adding another line to my syllabus regarding the posting of assignments.

  11. Barb, the student actually did quote from the echeat essay rather than handing it in as his own. He got dinged instead for not using a suitably academic source for his research. He thought the echeat essay was a scholarly essay. Of course he failed.


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