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Trick or Treat?: UVenus Marking Stories
October 31, 2011 - 11:06am

What was the most outrageous student term paper you've ever marked and why?

Denise Horn (US) One of the most outrageous papers was one which was almost completely plagiarized. I knew this because I required all my students to submit their papers via Turnitin.  The evidence was clear, yet the student refused to admit she had done it, and even more outrageously, her father (a lawyer) claimed his daughter was being unfairly targeted because other professors didn't use the software. He threatened to sue me!  Needless to say, I never changed the grade.

Janni Aragon (Canada) The most outrageous paper was a paper that met 50% of the assignment guidelines. It was obviously thrown together haphazardly and had virtually no research. I felt frustrated, but embarrassed for the student.

Meg Palladino (US) Although I don't grade term papers, I read a lot of ESL students' placement exams.  The most outrageous one was a response to a question about Americans' love of their pets.  The student wrote 5 paragraphs about how he did not support bestiality! 

Melonie Fullick (Canada): This one stands out not only as being outrageous, but also because it was the first student paper I ever graded. I still remember that the student was level IV in English, and I was really surprised by that. She argued that the Internet should be censored because it could be used by "perverts, eccentrics and terrorists" as a tool for subversion and revolt, no doubt. I wanted to comment, "as an eccentric, I find this offensive".

Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe (US) It was just lists of quotations.  No interpretive/argumentative structure whatsoever.  It was as if he ran out of time and handed in some very poorly collected notes.

Itir Toksoz (Turkey) The most outrageous term paper I've marked was one I came across several years ago when I was a graduate student and working as a Teaching Assistant. I started grading this student's paper only to sense after a few lines that instead of the student this was most probably written by some prominent journalist. I took the matter to the Professor I was TAing for and with some internet research, he found out that the paper submitted by the student was a piece from the Washington Post. This was the first (but unfortunately not the last) time I have seen to what extent students can plagiarize. This also taught be a great lesson because the Professor chose to solve the matter by asking the student to prepare another paper, this time on what plagiarism is. I thought this was a very constructive approach.

Lee Skallerup Bessette (US) A 10-page essay, supposedly comparing the poetry of two (Canadian) poets. The paper quoted only one poem from one of the poets. The insight? That these two poets used language in such a way that "if you changed the words, you'd change the meaning."

Mary Churchill (US) The toughest paper I ever graded was one in which the student used religion as an explanation for everything. Rather than draw upon class readings, lectures, or discussions, she simply stated that everything was the way it was because of god. I was floored and really struggled with how to talk with the student about the paper. She was very sweet and meant well but the entire paper needed to be rewritten and she couldn’t even begin to comprehend why her explanations didn’t “count.”

What about you? What was the most outrageous student term paper you've ever marked and why?


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