Hewitt Letter Addresses Plagiarism Challenge

On August 11 the Chronicle of Higher Education’s front page featured a plagiarism scandal at Ohio University at Athens. Dozens of master’s theses and dissertations from its Department of Mechanical Engineering were recalled for plagiarism. The article blamed students and faculty for not avoiding plagiarism. Cain Project faculty member Jan Hewitt, responded with a letter calling attention to universities’ obligation to help graduate students avoid plagiarism and learn to write for publication and dissertation committees. The letter was selected for the September 22nd issue of the Chronicle.

Excerpt From Hewitt’s Letter to the Chronicle of Higher Education
My work with graduate students in thesis-writing classes and in workshops has convinced me that they are desperate to learn how to avoid plagiarism and its consequences. They need models that show what is or what is not plagiarism; they need practice in paraphrasing and citation.

Even conscientious advisers often underestimate the difficulties of writing a literature review, with its demands for precise delineation, comparison, and attribution. Special problems arise when a student must incorporate a coauthored published paper into a thesis.

To meet those challenges, we must give graduate students opportunities to learn by doing.

Personal Statement Tips:

  • When writing your personal statement, begin with who you are now, not your childhood self. Awards aren’t given because a candidate dreamed of being an astronaut.
  • Avoid laundry lists of your qualities. Naming a few key qualities and backing them with examples will persuade readers.

CPTSC Posters Shine
The Council for Programs in Technical and Scientific Communication met in San Francisco in October. Linda Driskill, who is a member of the CPTSC Executive Committee, planned the poster portion of the conference program. The organization has been formulating new standards for posters about communication issues. The pattern of organization used in scientific posters often is not relevant for displaying complex connections between curriculum issues or showing evidence/data that is primarily visual in nature, such as diagrams, photos, or examples to generate discussion. Last year’s conference participants spent one session working to define the features of this genre, and this year’s session proudly displayed excellent examples. Linda Driskill and Rebecca Burnett (Iowa State) presented a poster that demonstrated the new guidelines and featured a sample design. The Cain team provided advice on addressing this complex “poster within a poster” design problem.

Odell Visits from Rensselaer Polytechnic
Professor Lee Odell of RPI spent October 8th with Cain faculty and Rice administrators discussing assessment and research in writing across the curriculum. As a national leader in communication assessment, Odell emphasizes the importance of using assessment methods that provide guidance for both students and faculty. His years of leadership in communication research also make him a valuable resource for Cain Project faculty who are planning a coordinated set of projects during the Project’s last two years. To facilitate the program’s development Odell has visited the Project periodically since the grant began. His first workshop for graduate students in 1998 filled Physics 212—there was not a single empty seat.

The Cain Project in Engineering and Professional Communication helps Rice students become expert speakers and writers. Because of the Gordon and Mary Cain Foundation’s generous gift, undergraduate and graduate students in science and engineering are developing the communication skills necessary for successful professional leadership.

Linda Driskill, PhD
Tracy Volz, PhD
Assistant Director

Rice University
PO Box 1892 - MS-340
Houston, TX 77251-1892
Phone: (713) 348-6141
Fax: (713) 348-6175
Email: cainproj@rice.edu

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