Assumptions... those nasty assumptions

I have been known to make some assumptions in my day. Sometimes these are well thought out assumpitions that prove to be true and sometimes they are just fly by the seat of my pants, all too often wrong assumptions. I experienced one of the wrong assumptions on Thursday in my second consultation wtih a student I wil call "Beth" who is of an older generation (what we often call a non-traditional student).

Beth came into the writing center the first time with a health sciences paper in hand, she had booked an hours so we took our time going through the paper, with my explaining APA citations as we went along (a particular concern of hers). In the paper she had stated some facts and cited the reference. I assumed since the information was not in quotations that she had in fact summarized the points and was citing them appropriately. The paper was fairly well written with just minor grammatical errors and errors in APA citations. This past Thursday however, after Beth revealed that she had basically gotten the information from the source, I asked her if she had summarized it or merely taken it word for word without using quotations. I assumed because she was an older student that she knew the difference between using a direct quote and summarizing. I obviously assumed wrong.

I delicately explained to her that if you use a direct quote, it must be contained within quotation marks. I also explained that it would be better if she summarized as the majority of her paper would be direct quotations and this was not something her teacher would appreciate. I don't really feel like she was plagiarizing since she was citing her sources, but she was definitely giving the impression that someone else's words were her own. After I explained things to her she was very willing to change the paper and we went through it and marked the sections that she took word for word to rewrite. We even rewrote one paragraph so I could make sure she understood what I meant.

This student plans to continue working with me on this paper, does anyone have any further suggestions on how to handle this situation?


  1. I think you handled the situation well. I don't think it was an uncommon assumption, or one you should kick yourself about at all. I think it would be wrong of us to assume that our writers don't know anything, and try go over information they are already aware of. Not only that, but we should not automatically assume our writers are plagiarizing, whether intentionally or not. We have to pick up on whatever clues we can to benefit our writer, and just do what we can. From the sound of it, you handled the situation well. I think it is excellent you found the time to work on writing a paragraph with her to help her have something to build off of. Don't get yourself down, it sounds like a successful consultation to me.

  2. I agree with Sara; there is no reason to feel you did anything wrong. It sounds to me that you handled the situation tactfully and successfully.

  3. I will also agree. I think everything was done that needed to be done.

    Also, I think that it may help sometimes when a student wants to continue working with you. You already know where she/he is coming from, what they have trouble with and how you can explain things best to them. I have a student that works with me in Business Communications papers every Wednesday. You should feel good that you made an impression on someone :) .


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