Quotations and CheatingTeachers assign questions in the form "find quotations to support X" in order to encourage students to read texts closely. When students ask for quotations on eNotes, it is...

Quotations and Cheating

Teachers assign questions in the form "find quotations to support X" in order to encourage students to read texts closely. When students ask for quotations on eNotes, it is normally to cheat on such assignments by having other people do the reading for them so that they can skip reading the book and simply copy the quotations from eNotes. Is this ethical? How would you feel about living next door to a nuclear power plant where technicians are trained to cheat on the "reading the manual" part of their job?

Asked on by thanatassa

17 Answers | Add Yours

docholl1's profile pic

Stephen Holliday | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Because I teach writing and assign an in-class "diagnostic" essay during the first week of class each semester, I can usually spot a student's plagiarism fairly easily.  I make a mighty attempt to convince students that once I have seen their writing I can see when sentence patterns and vocabulary change significantly--in other words, once I hear their "voices," I can perceive a change in those voices.

I also make it clear that plagiarism is not a crime against me or the school; it is, rather, a crime against all the students who don't plagiarize.  I make it clear that plagiarism is no different from stealing another student's money or belongings and that it is not therefore a "victimless" crime.

If some students take our enotes answers and plagiarize, that cannot be helped.  If they did not steal our work, they will steal someone else's work.  I operate on the assumption that enotes is a teaching opportunity, and it also provides good mental exercise for me.

dmcgillem's profile pic

dmcgillem | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted on

I really enjoyed reading all of these posts.  I am a VERY new addition to the editor ranks here on enotes, and two nights ago as I sat typing out an answer to a question, my husband asked what I was working on.  When I briefly answered him, he said, "So you're helping kids cheat?!" His reaction was one of absolute horror.  I, too, try to answer the larger question but leave the smaller points to the kids.  In terms of QAR, if a student asks a Right There or a Think and Search question, I don't feel they really need help - they need to read.  Author and Me questions very often are genuine areas of confusion.  For an On My Own, there really is no help I can give - students who ask those types of questions are looking for someone do it for them.  These are just my initial impressions.

kplhardison's profile pic

Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

Bear in mind, it is a large assumption to say that "When students ask for quotations on eNotes, it is normally to cheat on such assignments ...." Granted, there are students who have not got bright ethical light bulbs under their bonnets, and there are students who are manipulative, but these do not represent the "normal" student: never have, never will. The "normal" student has a thirst for learning of some level or other.

That said, many of the questions that you represent in your brief remarks are obviously questions written by a teacher and directed at the student; this is especially obvious with the long preambled ones and the ones with curt commands, like "Explain." or "Defend." or "Support with quotations." These curt commands--meant exclusively for the student and not for eNotes Editors--should be edited out and ignored. The question must be answered, but the commands to the student should be removed.

Long preambled questions go something like this: "Consider something something something then think of how it reflects society's something something something. Now answer why Elizabeth reacted the way she did to Darcy's letter after his rejected proposal. Explain with 5 quotes."

These actually should be edited to the simple question contained within the elaborate whole. You should reduce it so the final answered version is like this: "Why did Elizabeth react the way she did to Darcy's letter after his rejected proposal?"

Voila. 5 quote dilemma and doing the student's work for them dilemma eliminated. Now your answer falls into the category of tutoring or providing expert reference material akin to that in any encyclopedia or literary reference source, which can be cited (indeed, must be cited if used) as can any other legitimate reference work, for we are after all, experts, are we not?

One caveat. Editing the question must not change the intent and/or meaning of the question. For instance, the final form of the above example must be: "Why did Elizabeth react the way she did to Darcy's letter after his rejected proposal?" This is what the student asked. It may not be turned into something like: "How do I write an essay about Elizabeth's reaction to Darcy's letter?" This is not even remotely what the student asked.

Bear in mind, you are under no obligation whatsoever to provide quotations for students on eNotes. (1) You may entirely skip such questions. (2) You may answer without quotations at all. If you choose option (2), you will do so without expectation of a Bonus payment, but you may certainly so choose.

Another kind of question that poses an easily reduced ethical problem is this type: "What are a lot of quotes that show Mr. Darcy really has a good heart?" This you will edit to: "What is one quote that shows Mr. Darcy has a good heart?" Another is this similar type: "I need help finding a lot of quotes that show Darcy's character development." This you will edit to: "What is one quote that shows Darcy's character development?"

Again, voila. Quote and doing students' work dilemmas banished.

pirateteacher's profile pic

pirateteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted on

Post #10 states it perfectly.  Too many of my students turn in answers they they received from other sites.  Clearly who ever the "expert" was that answered the question wasn't truly an "expert" in the topic at hand. Instead, I think they were just an expert in Google. I hope my answers can serve to help some students truly understand the beauty and meaning of the texts they are reading. I love talking about literature to anyone who'll listen.  Enotes has given me the opportunity to talk with students from around the world about the books I love the most.

Since working for enotes, I've received numerous emails of thanks from students who now find Shakespeare "not so scary" or the passion Proctor has in The Crucible "now visible".  The first few I received blew my mind.  While my personal students are sweet, they rarely thank me for talking about books with them; they simply see it as me doing my job.  I keep each of these emails to remind myself that yes, so kids will use my answers just to get their work done, some are using it to actually understand. I know that my students use sites like enotes, but I also show them how to use the information here to help them supplement (not replace) their reading. Hopefully learning this now will help them keep from thinking the only way to read Macbeth is to hit up a wiki site.

Writing for the site has also helped me rethink many of my assignments.  So many students post questions on the site that they couldn't possibly understand on their own.  I find myself wondering "what was your teacher thinking?!?" I use these questions to make sure I'm having my kids look for the important topics/issues in their texts and not expecting my 9th graders to become young English majors. (Though I can dream one day they will, right? :)).

kiwi's profile pic

kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

As a teacher I am aware of the number of sites and resources to which students can turn to if they want to cheat. The internet has been with us for a long time now, and before that we have had study guides such as York notes and Cliff notes. I contribute to e-notes. I recommend sites to my students. I teach the implications of plagiarism and I check work I am unsure of. I see that it is as much my responsibility to teach my students to use resources wisely in English as I would teach them to use ingredients and equipment in a kitchen.

 I contribute to e-notes because I want there to be 'good stuff' out there, and I review other sites with and for my students. We cannot stop the tide of information which is out there, we just need, as educators, to make the best of it.

justaguide's profile pic

justaguide | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Guess what we are doing here is unethical. But would things change if we stopped responding to questions. I really don't think so, there are hundreds of other websites and forums providing the same service on the Internet.

Though that doesn't justify our aiding students in cheating in a way, I think the task of ensuring that what they do is acceptable now lies only on the teachers. Looking at a series of correct responses for questions the teacher thought were difficult and expected students to have a problem solving should ring a bell. As we're anonymous here, it shouldn't come as a surprise to see our responses submitted back to us!

Perhaps tests that have to be done as homework need to be complemented with short tests in the class to catch those who think they can outsmart the teacher. Also, the teacher could give a similar question to the student that has to be solved immediately and see how they perform.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I never assign for a grade any homework that could be copied in any way.  I see too many kids sitting in the halls in the morning copying homework to be under any illusion that it is a good way to actually get them to learn.

As far as answering questions on here goes, I tend to try to make my answers sound way too educated for them to be student work.  I figure that if a student hands my answer in verbatim and the teacher doesn't catch it, that's a failure on the part of the teacher.  I know my students' levels and I do not believe that I could be fooled by having one of them hand in an answer copied from here.

vangoghfan's profile pic

vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

My own experience has been that cheating by plagiarizing is extremely easy to spot, because the language used in plagiarized answers often differs markedly from the kind of language students are often capable of producing on their own. It is often the least skilled students who are tempted to cheat in this way, and so they are the kinds of students who cheating is often easiest to  spot.

In my own teaching, I give assignments that are so narrow in focus that it is almost impossible to cheat. I have also begun to rely more and more on in-class writing, which also makes cheating less likely.

Here's a question: are the answers included on eNotes fed into databases such as turnitin.com?  If they are, this would make cheating even easier to detect.

bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I often wonder just how many students turn in eNotes material verbatim to their teachers, claiming it is their own work. I worry about this myself, but I hope that most teachers will question assignments that seem too good to be true. When I receive papers that appear to have extensive outside influences, I usually compliment the students on the quality of their work and then ask them a few questions about their sources and how they came up with their ideas. Frequently the answers are "I dunno" or "I don't remember," and I know it's time for another class lecture about plagiarism.

litlady33's profile pic

litlady33 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

When deciding what/how to answer a question, I ask myself: If a student came to me and asked me this, what would I say? In most cases, I don't have a problem with answering questions here as they are asked. I will give a quotation to support what I'm saying with the hope that the student understands the quotation and the context I've used it in. I try not to answer the question in a way that they can simply regurgitate what I've said; they have to understand it and formulate it in terms of their assignment.

Generally, when the question posted by the student asks specifially for direct quotations on a topic, I don't answer. Like I said, I have no problem making the quotation part of the support for my answer (which is what I would do in my classroom anyway), but I don't think it's right to just give a quote that the student can use if the assignment is to find quotes.

Another rule of thumb for me is to avoid answering questions that have one-word or short answers. I try to explain the topic in as much depth as possible so the student can take from what I've said and fit that into the context of his/her assignment.

brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Since it is a site where students are seeking help on their homework, I guess that is to be expected.  But as a teacher myself, the obvious attempts at getting someone else to do their work for them go against the grain.  Seeing questions like "Can you summarize chapter 1 of ..." always makes me want to reply, "read the chapter and summarize it yourself!"  Instead, I just refuse to answer those.  But the model on eNotes is to pay editors per answer, so the incentive is to answer such questions even if we know it is a form of cheating.  Or to pretend that more well-worded questions that aren't so obvious are in fact not cheating. I suppose there's an ethical issue in either case.

literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Being a literature teacher, and familiar with the normal vernacular of my students, I can normally spot a copy and paste job from a mile away. I always answer student's questions using an elevated language.

I, like stolperia, hope that students would reword the answers, but I know that this is wishful thinking. Therefore, I count on the teacher's knowledge of their students to recognize plagiarism.

stolperia's profile pic

stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

It's a question that I suspect we all struggle with - at least, I know I do! It's one of the reasons why I don't use very many direct quotations in my answers and why I try to write my answers so that they don't necessarily directly address the question that's been posed. I like to think that students whose questions I answer have to do some thinking about and rewriting in order to make the answers sound like their response in vocabulary and content.

Looking forward to reading other reactions to this question!

elisa96's profile pic

elisa96 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted on

It could count as cheating but they will eventualy end up with the same quotations and would not have a life thretening effect if they had the wrong thing... i think that enotes is very helpfull for some things because they could be having trouble finding the quotation and just need some help with the one and they would no what they where looking for.

jhonblight101's profile pic

jhonblight101 | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

As a teacher I am aware of the number of sites and resources to which students can turn to if they want to cheat. The internet has been with us for a long time now, and before that we have had study guides such as York notes and Cliff notes. I contribute to e-notes. I recommend sites to my students. I teach the implications of plagiarism and I check work I am unsure of. I see that it is as much my responsibility to teach my students to use resources wisely in English as I would teach them to use ingredients and equipment in a kitchen.

 I contribute to e-notes because I want there to be 'good stuff' out there, and I review other sites with and for my students. We cannot stop the tide of information which is out there, we just need, as educators, to make the best of it.

I do agree about of what you post  kiwi.I'm  a student and e-notes is a good stuff to used.

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