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Faculty, students debate online editing resources

Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012

Updated: Monday, December 10, 2012 15:12


Nina Davari / Tufts Daily Archives

Some students are forsaking on-campus writing resources for online editors.

Nearing the end of the semester, students turn to a variety of resources to complete final assignments and papers. Draft after draft, some may decide to seek out help beyond the offerings of the Academic Resource Center or, in some classes, the advice of their Writing Fellow.

As such, new online editing sites allow students to submit their essays online to a graduate student or professor and have their essays edited — potentially free of charge — without face−to−face interaction between the editor and the writer.

Though some see sites as a means to quickly finish assignments, others find that online editing services are not effective for students, rather an easy way out.

Freshman Josh Steinberg chose to forgo sending his essays to online sites.

“I would much rather take the time to sit down with a peer or visit the Writing Resource Center in order to edit my essay,” he said. “Submitting papers online to other resources complicates matters. Real−time feedback is important.”

Associate Director of Writing Resources at the Academic Resource Center (ARC) Kristina Aikens firmly believes that in−person tutoring is more effective than its online counterpart.

“[Within the ARC], you meet one−on−one with a tutor, you can talk through ideas and concepts and, very importantly, ask questions if you don’t understand something,” she said. “The ARC tutors are ... not [only] there to correct mistakes. They look at the big−picture issues that students may be facing, in terms of their writing quality and style.”

Dean of Academic Advising and Undergraduate Studies Carmen Lowe said that online tutoring is associated with inherent limitations that can impact the quality of service that a student receives.

“[Online tutoring] is not our preferred mode of providing tutoring services, and our writing tutors have found it difficult to provide effective, focused writing guidance in such a way as to avoid re−writing the paper for the student,” she said. “It’s far easier to provide surface−level proofreading or editorial quick fixes online than it is to do what a good writing tutor does.”

According to Lowe, the ARC focuses on students’ long−term growth rather than strictly worrying about short−term results.

“At the ARC, our writing fellows and graduate writing consultants are trained to use a more comprehensive approach, which puts the writer in charge of his or her own writing and prevents the tutor from inadvertently writing the paper for the student,” she said. “The ARC does not provide editorial services [because] Tufts’ writing tutors try to focus on patterns of grammatical error to help students learn how to edit their own work.”

Although this takes more time and requires more work on behalf of the student, perhaps resulting in submitted papers that are not perfect, Lowe said, in the long run, it’s a better way to learn English and develop your voice as a writer than to simply have someone correct your writing for you without guidance.

Freshman Vanessa Zhang agreed that direct, in−person contact with the individual reading her work is preferable.

“It is increasingly difficult to find sites that are both trustworthy and secure. Typically, essays are time−sensitive, and I think that although the process of submitting an essay online is much faster than making the time to visit someone ... in the long run, I’ll benefit more from getting that face−to−face interaction,” she said. “Also, I can ask questions and receive an immediate response if I need something to be clarified.”

According to Lowe, utilizing online proofreading services may not be the ideal option for students, but doing so does not violate the university’s Academic Integrity Policy.

“Students are free to seek out whatever proofreading help they can find, whether that’s seeking the help of a roommate, friend or a paid service,” she said. “For any course besides some expository writing classes, using professional proofreading services is not a violation of academic integrity, nor is incorporating the editorial suggestions of another person.”

Still, Lowe warned students to be careful about the extent to which they rely on the help of proofreaders or editors, whether in−person or online.

“[If] the editor’s suggestions become so extensive that they essentially rewrite the paper or take on the task of thinking for the student, then should the student incorporate those suggestions, especially by accepting them electronically, that could be considered academic misconduct,” she said. “Hiring a ghost writer or buying a paper from an online term−paper mill is a serious form of academic fraud, with suspension or expulsion as the consequence ... And, yes, Tufts students have been caught doing this, and they have been suspended.”

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