Friday, 27 April 2007

Orwell Prize

I was very pleased to see that there's an Orwell Prize for political writing in the UK. This year's winner (for a book) was Professor Peter Hennessy (more), and the BBC 2 Newsnight programme also won a special award. Hennessy's book, Having It So good: Britain In The Fifties, is on the Macmillan period, and as a child of that era myself I am pleased to see it being given serious recognition.

I was first introduced to Orwell the political essayist when I was at school and I have admired him ever since. I always introduce my students to the rules for good writing that he promulgated in his 1946 essay "Politics and the English Language", and challenge them to devise better rules or to demonstrate that his rules are no longer valid. They haven't succeeded yet. I don't think many of the students I meet think of Winston Smith when they hear the words "Big Brother", more's the pity.

Monday, 23 April 2007

Cheating and plagiarism

When I started this blog I subscribed to Google's AdSense service to try to derive a little bit of revenue. Many bloggers do the same. The Google ads change regularly, without any intervention on my part. I recently noticed one which I really didn't approve of, so I decided to disabled the Google ads completely until I work out if I can manage them in some way.

There are lots of commercial services around offering to write academic papers at various levels for a fee. It was a Google ad for one of these services that prompted me to remove the ad service from my blog. From what I've seen you can get someone to write anything from a six-year-old's homework to a full doctoral thesis, and many of these services even offer a "100% plagiarism-free guarantee". I am sure that there are some students, harassed and short of time, who are tempted to use these services. Some of them may even think that as the bought essays are "guaranteed plagiarism-free" they would not violate their institution's rules on plagiarism. Oh dear.

Every institution I am or have been associated with as a student or as a teacher has rules in place to prevent cheating of all kinds. Plagiarism - copying from someone else's work and presenting it as your own - is only one kind of cheating. Paying someone to do your work may not be plagiarism, but it is still cheating. If you submit an essay you have purchased as your own work, that's cheating. Even if the essay is brilliant work, it's not your work, and you can't get credit for it. The cheating is in the fact that you didn't do the work, and that you want to get academic credit for something you didn't do. It is the same as buying a qualification, or paying someone else to take a driving test for you. You wouldn't want to be treated by a doctor who had bought their qualification, or live in a house certified as safe by a structural engineer who had bought the answers to their final exam.

So please, resist temptation, and don't cheat.