Letters to the Editor

A Simple Answer to an Old Problem

Abraham Hoffman, May 1990

In "HELP—New Tricks for Old Dogs," author John E. Stovel suggests a "Topic Paragraph" for students "as if they were going to write a complete research paper. ... Of course there are opportunities for chicanery in what appears to be a flimsy assignment, but since research papers often can be purchased by the page on almost any campus, little would appear to have been lost."

As more than two decades have passed since term paper mills began blatantly advertising their products in campus newspapers and the back-page ads of Playboy, one would think that professors would have caught on by now how to solve the problem. The answer is absurdly simple; don't just require a research paper; require everything that went into its creation, submitted in a large envelope. This includes note cards, tentative outlines, preliminary bibliographies, rough drafts, and copies of materials utilized in the research.

Monitoring the progress of the research paper by specifying submission according to set deadlines of sample pages, outlines, and bibliographical digging makes it all but impossible for a student to turn in a purchased paper. Of course, this means that professors would have to read and evaluate the honestly done work of students, not just a "Topical Paragraph," and I'm probably expecting too much from either side, right?

Abraham Hoffman
William Howard Taft High School
Los Angeles, California