Papermills and authorship… it’s a black magic trade-off. The ethical issues are obvious– it’s wrong to sell a paper to a papermill, just as it’s wrong to buy one and turn it in as one’s own. I’m more intrigued with the concept of points of view for sale.
When I write a paper, I normally feel that my voice is in it. Maybe that’s just my giant ego, or that only child syndrome (which is actually not taken seriously by professionals any more, mind you), but I feel like if I wrote it, it’s freaking me. According to Kelly Ritter in her article “The Economics of Authorship: Online Paper Mills, Student Writers, and First-Year Composition,” I’m in the minority. A lot of students do not feel that their writing reflects their voice. They think that their papers are only worth something if they can be bought and sold, and that “professionals” ought to be doing their writing.
I wonder, would students be less likely to plagiarise if they believe that their writing (and voice) is intrinsically valuable? Would highly personalized assignments help this? Along with Peter Elbow’s method of “liking” all student writing? I think it would. I feel that if some students are lazy and don’t care about the class, they will cheat. But as we discussed in class this week, it is more likely for a student who normally does well to cheat. What is the psychology of cheating? There are a lot of questions with variable answers depending on the student and situation, I imagine. But at the same time, I think small steps can be taken to remind students that selling their papers is like handing your voice over to that evil octopus woman. The prince really isn’t that hot. And he’d prefer to hear your voice coming out of your own sweet face rather than that watery bint’s.
In-class writing exercises could help, creative projects, engaged research… all these things and more spring to mind. Making writing professional, political, personal could help. Drafting and drafting and drafting is a pretty tough one to get around plagiarism-wise. And all these things, along with positive encouragement and student-led discussions about each other’s work might help them see their writing and voices as something that is theirs, that is valuable, and that has its rightful place with the original author.