Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thesis Market

It pains me to see students cheating. I warned my grad students about the dangers of plagiarism and cheating in my classes--I failed a large number of them because they copied articles from websites and used them as their own essays. I also know this is not a phenomenon relegated to Chinese universities (J. had more than a few similar stories from his time teaching freshman composition at an American university).

Now China is facing the problem of its own online thesis market. According to China Daily, thesis websites are worth up to $79 million a year, charging an average of $95 per paper. The greatest reason for the need for such websites is that promotions in business and education depend on writing and publishing a thesis (even if it's plagiarized or published in a journal that has no credibility). I would like to point out that the grad school for which I worked required its PhD candidates to publish at least three research articles in English in foreign journals, which meant plagiarism was not tolerated. The thesis was another story.

What bothered me most about the article was the response to this academic dishonesty. An associate professor at Wuhan University said, "We should stop regarding thesis as the only assessment to get a promotion, and cancel the dissertations of gradates who don't specialize in researching." Isn't the purpose of higher education to specialize in research? If university students aren't researching a subject, what are they doing?

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