What Rob says here makes perfect sense to me:

> What probably bothers me more than plagiarism is the plethora
> of  "Custom Essay" mills. Most of my students who have
> trouble are  somewhere in the grey zone of "plagiphrasing" --
> they haven't really  learned to handle sources, or they lack
> the linguistic savvy to really  handle the complexity of the
> material they're trying to work with. In  these cases, I try
> to capitalize on the teaching moment and work with  the
> student to understand what the meaning of source use is, and
> what  thoughtful interrogation of sources entails.  The
> actual plagiarism  cases are fairly rare. 

But (always a "but," eh?) I want to widen this question a bit:

> However, we have a huge problem in Toronto with the
> availability of  writers for hire.  I've never caught one of
> these, but I've sure been  suspicious on a number of occasions
> when students produce work that  seems far above any
> previously demonstrated ability. Anybody have a solution to
> that problem? 

No, but I'd like to suggest it's not a new problem, and often 
isn't seen as a problem at all.  Remember the good old days when 
the CEO "dictated" a memo to "the girl" and she was the one who 
actually produced a coherent, persuasive, literate text that 
he'd never have been able to get close to if he'd been let loose 
at a keyboard? 

My "solution," such as it is, is this: more on-site, immediate, 
used-and-discarded writing (anybody know the term "inkshed"?); 
more extremely specific, purpose- and occasion-driven writing of 
explanations, reports, persuasions; more immediate and unique 
writing occasions . . . and _way_ fewer formal essays, even when 
accompanied by outlines, research notes, drafts, etc. And even 
fewer occasions than that on which writing is evaluated and the 
value "counted" toward a "mark." 

-- Russ

St. Thomas University

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