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Paying for proofreading students' work

by: Romany Howes (5 August 2014)

There's been a murmur in the press recently about the ethicality of university students paying to have their work checked by professional proofreaders and grammar specialists.

Firstly, there is a huge difference between writing an essay and checking it. And this seems to be the crux of the argument. There are companies around who promise (for a hefty fee) to write a studentís work, whether it be an end-of-year essay or a final dissertation. Rumour has it that an unsuspecting Oxford tutor worked freelance for one such company. He wrote a PhD-standard essay on his specialised subject and was paid a princely sum. However, when to his horror, his dissertation, word for word, was handed in by one of his undergraduate students, he took action and reported the practice.

All about the money?

Secondly, students now have to pay for tuition. If they are forking out £9,000 a year in tuition fees, then why shouldn't they pay someone to proofread their work? The fact is that not everyone is academically brilliant when it comes to spelling, not even those who should be: The Guardian (aka the Grauniad) is still living down its nickname from Private Eye because of its reputation for spelling mistakes. Some students need help in spelling and grammar to present their work and get the best marks possible. They may be excellent nuclear physicists or mechanical engineers with the knowledge of their subject matter exemplary in their heads. But getting it down on paper may be a struggle for them. So that's where proofreading services are useful.

Proof positive

There are numerous companies out there, including Writeitclearly.com who offer a proofreading service for students. This is a grammatical and proofreading service, not a writing service. We check the work ALREADY WRITTEN and make amendments accordingly. We do not change, add or alter content.

Overseas students

The majority of our clients are overseas students, with English their non-native language. They want to present their written work to reflect the knowledge they have attained during their studies in the UK. After all, they were accepted onto their academic course for their ability and potential to complete it successfully but with limited written English ability, their work is often misinterpreted and accordingly marked down.

Am I defending using proofreading services? Absolutely. Small and big businesses use us, government agencies use us, dyslexic people use us. Finally, we number among our clients, universities and academic establishments who want their websites (encouraging students to apply for courses) to be checked for grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. What's sauce for the goose . . .

Views: 1397

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Ref: 105 I teach technology. An important part of the skills that students need to learn is to communicate with peer and lay audiences. This is something we are repeatedly told by employers and is frequently built in to assessments. There is no clear distinction between English and 'subject'. So, yes, professional proof-reading can be a form of cheating, with potential consequences for the student when this is identified. More importantly, it removes the ability for us to support the student in developing their communication skills. T
Steve - 08:29 04-09-2014
Ref: 100 Most essays I work on are from foreign students whose grasp of English grammar is nowhere near as good as the grasp of the subject they are studying. Should they be penalised for that, as it's not English that they are studying?
Garry - 09:15 06-08-2014
Ref: 99 Steve I have yet to receive an assignment from a student studying English or humanities. Interestingly, virtually all come from the sciences or vocational courses. The students want to improve their spelling and grammar, that's all. And it begs the question, if they managed to get to university with a lack of proper grammar and spelling, what standards are taught in schools?
Romany - 09:11 06-08-2014
Ref: 98 This is a much greyer area. For example, if the aim of an assignment is to help students to develop their written communication skills (something which is increasingly common), then professional proofreading could be seen as a form of cheating. More importantly, it deprives the student of the feedback needed to improve their work for the future.
Steve - 19:24 05-08-2014
Ref: 96 Surely everyone is entitled to have their written work checked or proofread? I can see no ethical problem there - maybe when there is extensive editing that is where the line begins to be crossed.
Marilyn - 18:21 05-08-2014
Ref: 95 Although there are some unethical companies out there, those that offer proofreading/editing mostly do not come into that category. Much work does need editing. Some of the essays I have seen have been almost unreadable without changes.
Garry - 16:29 05-08-2014

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