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Category Archives: Writing

Student at risk of plagiarism 3: Giving feedback to your student client and their supervisor

text with tracked changesWhat do you do when you detect a risk of plagiarism in a student text and you need to give feedback to the student and possibly their supervisor? How do you stop a student feeling accused? How do you get confirmation from the supervisor that what you’re doing is acceptable by their institution?

In this post for editors working with student texts, I share the good practice I’ve developed over my ten years in operation when dealing with the two kinds of plagiarism I encounter in student work:

  • Plagiarism conducted directly by a student who does not reference or credit quotations, results and theories (therefore passing other people’s work off as their own)
  • Plagiarism that arises when you as the editor are doing far too many corrections and effectively risking co-writing the text (therefore risking the student passing your work off as their own)

I will write about these two risks of plagiarism in two further articles which I will link to here when they’re published. I’m publishing this one first to avoid leaving readers who are reading along dangling, as this article covers both types of plagiarism and is referenced at the ends of both articles as the end point of their processes.

What do I do if I encounter or risk enabling plagiarism?

Once I’ve realised a text is at risk of plagiarism (and in my experience, both kinds often come together in a text), I will follow these levels of action/escalation:

  1. Stop working on the text*
  2. Contact the student client immediately
    1. Explain what the problem is
    2. Offer solutions the client can use (go through the text, find where you’re missing references or need to show direct quotes/reference and insert those, etc.)
  3. The student client will get back to me with one of two answers
    1. “I will amend the text and send it back to you”. If that happens, great, and if they’ve done it correctly, I carry on working on the text
    2. “It’s OK, just rewrite the direct quotes”/”Just make the changes to my sentences, my tutor says it’s OK”. If that happens, I go to step 4
  4. It’s time to stop the work or ask for contact from the supervisor:
    1. If 3. i has occurred, I reiterate that the student must write direct quotes in their own words and I can’t do that for them. If an impasse is reached, I state I cannot work on the text any more and invoice the student client.**
    2. If 3. ii has occurred, I ask the student to provide me with evidence that their supervisor has approved the level of work I need to do on the text
      1. I send the student the text that I have amended so far, asking them to present that to their supervisor (I might in an extreme case save this as a PDF to prevent them accepting all changes and then just going and using someone else for the next part)
      2. I ask for either a letter from the tutor on headed paper OR a direct email from the supervisor instructing me to do this work. I leave this up to the student to do. This helps them not feel I’m reporting on them (as I say in Part 2, this is often down to stress, pressure or lack of understanding rather than explicit wrongdoing) and it saves me having to try to contact the supervisor myself.
  5. Depending on what I hear from the supervisor, conclude the work relationship or continue working:
    1. If I hear back from the supervisor in the negative, I stop work, invoice the client and keep the letter from the supervisor for a period of time
    2. If I hear back that I can continue, I continue with the work, present it to the client and save the tutor’s letter with the work files

* I have a statement in my terms and conditions that I will invoice for any work done before I detect plagiarism. I charge by the word, so I check the word count and invoice based on that.

** I will always suggest to the student that they contact their student support services, often attached to their department or library, who can give help with language issues and referencing procedures. I see my role as helping, not blaming or punishing the student for their mistake.

This article has outlined what I do to provide feedback to the student client and their supervisor when I encounter plagiarism in student work. My resources this website about plagiarism are listed below. Do comment if you use another good method or have used this one with success.

Related posts on this blog:

Student at risk of plagiarism 1: When the referencing is missing

Student at risk of plagiarism 2: When the editor is at risk of doing too much

Plagiarism in business texts

On plagiarism

How to quote sources without plagiarising

Referencing for academic writing

Choosing a proofreader – student edition

My terms and conditions

Why has my proofreader not edited my bibliography?

On (not) crossing the line

 

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How to customise your contents page in Word

It’s Word Tips time again and today we’re going to talk about customising your contents page.

Why do people customise their contents page?

Sometimes you have lots and lots of sub-headings in a document but you only want to show the main or main and sub-headings on the contents page, not every tiny sub-sub-heading.

In addition, you might want to change the style of your contents page or its individual font and layout. Here’s how to do it, with a worked example of changing the levels that are shown.

Reminder: how do I insert a contents page?

Here’s our document, with headings at H1, H2 and H3 level. I’ve marked these up with their heading levels already (see here for how to assign heading levels).

If we just follow the usual process for inserting a table of contents, we will create a blank page before this one, then go to the References tab and choose Table of Contents, then click on one of the automatic options that come up.

This is the result: a table of contents that includes all the headings in our original text:

How do I select which heading levels appear in my Table of Contents?

If you want to ignore all headings below level 2 (1.1, 1.2) then you need to customise the table of contents.

As before, select the References tab and the Table of Contents button. However, now click on Custom Table of Contents

This will give you this dialogue box:

There are lots of different things you can do here. For example, you can choose to show or not show the page numbers in the table of contents, and whether or not to align them. The preview panes at the top will show you the results before you click OK.

Options allows you to choose the style for the table of contents from a set of heading styles, and Modify then Modify again allows you to completely customise the appearance of the table of contents text permanently, with underlining, different fonts, etc.

At the moment, we’re concerned with eliminating the level 3 headings from the table of contents.Click on the arrows by Show levels to adjust how many levels are displayed:

And click OK. Here we have changed the number of levels to 2, and the result is this:

Even though the text still has the same headings and levels it had before, the table of contents now just includes those headings down to Level 2

This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents. Find all the short cuts here … Please note that these tips are for Word 2010 and later for Microsoft. I can’t guarantee or check they will work in Mac versions of Word.

Do let me know if this has helped you – and do share with the buttons at the bottom of this article.

Related articles on this website

How to use headings styles – make your headings clear and consistent

How to set up numbered headings – ones that automatically update themselves!

How to create a Table of Contents – read the posts on Headings first

Table of Figures and Table of Tables – how to create these tricky ones

How do I add or remove auto-captions?

Two-line caption, one-line entry in the Table of Figures: how?

How to update Tables of Contents, Figures and Tables

Tables of Contents for editors – helping the editing process run smoothly

 
 

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Mandolin or Mandoline?

Thank you to my husband Matthew for suggesting this one (he’s quite the fount of troublesome pairs, so watch out for more of his ones as we go through this new set of them), after he discovered himself that these two are in fact two different things.

So what’s the difference between a mandolin and a mandoline?

A mandolin is a musical instrument which is like a lute, with pairs of metal strings that are played using a plectrum.

A mandoline (which can also be spelled mandolin, hooray!) is that vegetable slicer thing (a flat body with adjustable slicing blades) that always looks like it will take your finger off.

“She was playing the mandolin, being careful not to hurt her fingers on the metal strings, while he cut vegetables using the mandoline, bring careful not to slice his fingers on the metal blades.”

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2019 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing

 

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Arc or arch?

When is an arc an arch? Is an arc ever in fact an arch?

An arc is first of all a curve that is made up of part of the circumference of a circle. So it has a particular form which may well be like that of an arch, but it’s always part of that circumference in this case. It can also be the electrical discharge that jumps from one point to another (so lightning forms an arc: not in this case a nice tidy bit out of a circumference) and finally we have the metaphorical use in a “story arc” in a fiction book, film, TV series or play (often across several episodes of a TV series) which traces the development of a plot or side plot. The verb to arc means to move with a curving trajectory, which could include arching over something.

An arch is a physical thing rather than a mathematical concept or a plot device (though you can have over-arching ideas that act as a sort of umbrella across a narrative or other story). So it’s a symmetrical curved (though that curve can be quite pointy) structure that supports a bridge, a wall, etc. It’s also the inner side of the foot, which is the same thing but in nature rather than constructed. The verb means to form an arch.

So an arc has a specific shape unless it doesn’t, and an arch is a physical thing unless it’s a metaphor. But you don’t have a story arch and most arches couldn’t be said to form part of a circumference of a circle.

You can find more troublesome pairs here, and here’s the index to them all!

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2019 in Troublesome pairs, Writing

 

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Upmost or utmost?

In this series of “Troublesome Pairs” I discuss words which people get easily confused, or where it’s not clear what the difference is between them – if indeed there is a difference. Some of these I find in my work, some out in the world at large, and some are suggested to me by friends, family and colleagues (do get in touch if you have a good one for me that I haven’t written about yet!). Some of the words are homophones (words that sound the same), some just seem to get people confused.

So today we’re looking at upmost and utmost. Words with just one letter different can be easily confused – even more so when they sound very similar. Do you confuse upmost and utmost? Here’s the difference.

Upmost is also spelled uppermost, and that might be the best one to stick with if you do mix these two words up. Uppermost means at the top, the highest in importance or rank or level.

Utmost means most extreme, the greatest amount or extent of something. That doesn’t neccessarily mean the highest of something like upmost.

“I did my utmost in training to appear on the upmost reaches of the chart showing who could lift the heaviest weight.”

You can find more troublesome pairs here, and here’s the index to them all!

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2019 in Troublesome pairs, Writing

 

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Constantly or consistently?

What’s the difference between constantly and consistently? Find out below …

Constant means remaining the same but its primary meaning is happening continuously, and it also has a metaphorical meaning of dependable and faithful. So to do something constantly means to do it all the time, as well as remaining constant or the same (and also doing it dependably).

Consistent means done in the same way over a long period of time, including an attribute of fairness and accuracy. It also means being compatible with (as in x was consistent with y). So doing something consistently means doing it in the same way over a long period of time, which does echo the secondary sense of constantly, but constantly also includes a sense of doing it continuously, which consistently doesn’t.

For example, I am constantly taking photos that I put up on social media, every day if not more; I consistently post a books of the year round-up on the first of January every year.

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2019 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing

 

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What happens to your website statistics when you drop the ball with your blogging?

When you have a professional website with a blog attached, what happens to your reader stats if you stop blogging? I did not do this experiment solely for this blog, but I thought it would be interesting to have a look at what happened when I had a blogging hiatus.

I haven’t updated this blog for six months. How did that happen? I’ll explain below. What am I going to do about it? Start blogging again, I hope …

Why did I stop writing blog posts?

Back in the summer, I made the decision to stop working at weekends. Working in this case included both paid editing, proofreading, localisation and transcription work and the additional marketing tasks like blogging, writing articles, responding to blog comments, etc. I did have to make the odd exception when work levels were high or I’d taken time off during the week (or had a holiday) but by and large I’ve stuck to this and am happier, less tired and more balanced as a result. OK, I took up a new hobby as an Endurance (cross-country and road relays) running official and lately a Track and Field official, which has involved weekend training courses and time standing around in muddy fields or boiling hot infields, but that’s a healthy, outdoors hobby.

However, the anticipated drop in paid hours didn’t happen. In fact, in 2018 I have brought in around 12% more revenue than in each of the two previous years, on average, I’ve worked the same number of hours per week, and I’ve in fact had fewer low-paid-hours weeks this year. So what had to give? Blogging.

This was exacerbated by the fact that, while my blog still obviously displays my knowledge of Word, language, business, etc., and channels people to buy my business books (still going just as strong as ever), I have been fortunate enough to have sustained my customer base through a lovely set of regular clients and through their recommendations to others. Added to this, over the nine years I’ve been self-employed, I’ve moved from a model of working with lots and lots of small jobs, editing Master’s thesis for overseas students, etc., to longer-term projects working with regular translator clients and writers / ghost-writers, so work has been more predictable, and I haven’t really needed my blog to funnel customers to me like I once did.

So it slipped. Should I just let it go?

What happens when you stop writing new posts on your blog?

Because December is always a low-traffic month anyway, I’m sharing stats from July 2016 through to the end of October 2018. Although there are peaks and troughs always, with March always being busy with those students and their Master’s dissertations searching how to put bibliographies in alphabetical order, you can see the drop-off in the latter few months of the cycle. That’s when I stopped blogging.

It’s pretty well-known that Google and other search engines like regularly updated content to index. That’s why I and others tell people to keep blogging and/or updating their website regularly. So I knew this, and the stats show it.

What am I going to do with my blog? Should I give up blogging?

Although I don’t feel at the moment that I NEED to write and publish lots of blog posts, I’m going to get back into it. How, I will share below. There are a couple of reasons WHY:

  • Although I have sufficient clients now, especially with lots of them being in Europe and the threat of Brexit looming, I can’t assume that will continue to be the case (small independent sole traders like me have had no advice from the government or HMRC). So it’s good to keep marketing yourself even when you’re busy. I am fortunate enough to have lots of lovely colleagues I can pass work to that I can’t take on at the moment.
  • I enjoy helping people. I get a buzz when I receive a comment saying I sorted out someone’s problem, or one of my Small Business Chats interviewees thanks me for a referral they received from my site. I do my job because I like helping people, and the blog allows me to help more of them while I’m doing other things!
  • I loved finding out what my Small Business Chat interviewees were up to and how they were getting on, and learning from their journeys. I don’t want to lose those connections.

What’s the plan?

I’m going to use my time wisely. Over the festive break, I’m going to add the flesh to the bones of a load of ideas I’ve put in my blog post drafts and get them all ready to schedule through the year (the plan there is to see how many I can get written and then distribute them evenly through the next year, keeping an eye on what’s about to publish as I go through the year in case there’s some awful clash between a light-hearted Troublesome Pair and a horrible news item).

I’m going to get in touch with my January 2018 Small Business Chat people as normal for their updates, but I’m also going to contact all the June-December 2017 ones I never got back to, see if they want to continue to take part and slot them in until I can spread them evenly through the year again. I will point them here and hope they appreciate my honesty and openness and continue to take part.

Over to you …

Have you paused your blog (especially a professional one) and started up again? What did you learn or change? Are you one of my abandoned Small Business Chat folk? Would you like me to continue featuring you again or has that series run its course? Have you enjoyed reading those posts? Have you, well, missed me?

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2018 in Blogging, Business, Marketing, Writing

 

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