proofreading and evaluating writing

On Kairosnews a post about emerging proofreading services now available to students. In my view, this is just an extension on an old practice. For a long time students (especially grad students) have had people to type/proofread their work. We regularly encourage students to read each others drafts. I assume we expect that at least one of the things going on during such workshopping is that students are doing some proofreading. Obviously academic and professional writers rely on editors and proofreaders all the time.

This is just the networked/flat world extension of this practice. Assuming that such proofreading services are actually reliable, what would you pay as a student to have your paper proofread?

Anyway, I’m interested here about the prospects for grading and the relationship to plagiarism. At what point does one cross a line from having one’s paper proofread (a practice we already deem to be acceptable) to having it rewritten? Is that a line we can ever expect students to identify?

Furthermore, how does this affect the many professors who base their grading of writing on grammatical errors? We all (should) know this is a common practice within English and beyond. How many students fail FYC every year b/c they have a non-standard English dialect? How many of these would pass with the level of proofreading these services would supply? Would that be cheating? Again, how and where would you draw the line?

To me this is just another example of how composition gets networked and the notion of the author distributed. Yes, our students should "know" how to write clean copy, but the question continues to be where does that knowledge come from and how does it function? How much does it matter whether that knowledge is "inside" or not? Do we care if they have to look up the answer in their grammar handbook? Do we care if they look the answer up online? Do we care if they get the answer from a friend down the hall? Do we care if they get the answer from a person online? Do we care if they paid for the answer? They pay for the grammar handbook, right?

Sure you could say, they can’t rely on an online service b/c that service might not always be available. True, but then is the grammar handbook always going to be lying around? Should I not be relying on that either?


2 replies on “proofreading and evaluating writing”

This nicely dovetails with the semi-recent emergence of websites that will produce bibliographies in any style (APA, MLA, etc.) for students for free. If you’re a professor who grades this as a part of student writing, where will you be when all of the students start using these services?


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