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Please could I have some perspective on this?

(7 Posts)
grumpmitchell Wed 18-May-16 06:42:59

I am a student, just completing my dissertation. My friend has a different supervisor from me. My friend's supervisor has given her big chunks of her own (as yet unmarked) masters dissertation to 'help her' as she's struggling. They are doing very similar topics. This seems a bit off to me but I was told when I raised it that it was fine and normal for supervisors to share this sort of thing with supervisees. But surely this is no different to two students sharing work - bearing in mind the supervisors work is unpublished and unmarked - isn't this collusion? There is a back story of my friend and the supervisor being unusually close. I'm worried that my friend is being manipulated and could get into trouble. Would like some expert perspective on this please as she's worked hard and I'm worried she's been daft in accepting this from her supervisor.

FoggyBottom Wed 18-May-16 07:05:43

This is tricky.

I sometimes share draft work from my own research with students - but mostly in my seminar groups rather than one to one. Although I have shared drafts with PhD students and advanced undergrads. It's about showing them how scholarly writing goes from rubbish first drafts to published essays. However, I'm not still a Masters student & I publish a lot, so I know that my work is OK even at rubbish first draft stage. And I don't give students my draft work as if it is a scholarly authoritative reference although in what crap university is a Master's student supervising dissertations?

So your friend should take this material as assistance in showing her how someone else has approached her topic not as an authoritative reference. If your friend plagiarises her supervisor's draft material, by using it in her own dissertation, she has only herself to blame, and it is cheating. No question.

So your friend shouldn't accept her supervisor's draft work, nor should her supervisor be offering your friend work with the nod & wink that 'here, use this.' If your friend is being pressured by her supervisor to incorporate the supervisor's writing into her dissertation, she must resist. But if it's being offered as "Here's a way I've been working on this material, maybe it will help you" then it should be regarded as any other secondary critical source of scholarly reference. Although not particularly authoritative if it's from an as yet unexamined Masters dissertation.

You could take further local advice by: going to your Student Union/Guild; seeing your Head of Department; seeing the convenor of the dissertation module; or talking to someone responsible for teaching & learning higher up in your Faculty.

Your problem is that it's hearsay. If someone brought this complaint to me, as an HoD, I'd find it quite difficult to investigate, unless it were the actual student who asked me about it.

I'd probably have an informal chat with my colleague (the supervisor) and suggest that other students are getting confused about the situation, and for absolute clarity and being seen to be transparent & fair, the supervisor should not be offering help in this way. It's supervision, not direction; there's a difference. And that the supervisor must be absolutely clear with the student that sharing draft material is to offer her some ideas about how others have approached the topic, not for inclusion in the student's dissertation.

RobinsAreTerritorialFuckers Wed 18-May-16 08:23:17

What jumps out to me is your question 'surely this is no different to two students sharing work'?

What would be wrong with that?

Sharing work is not collusion. It worries me that some students believe it is. I regularly suggest my students might like to read (and proof-read) each others' drafts, and sometimes, they are required to read each others' essays before coming to classes (not just mine, but other supervisors' classes too).

I also show them how to cite each other, which is something you should know.

I do think it seems a little worrying if your friend's supervisor is giving her much more attention that everyone else's supervisors. Can you discuss this with the course convenor/your personal tutor? I wouldn't raise it as 'is this collusion' but more as 'there seems to be an unevenness in how we're being supervised'.

It does surprise me a student who has not yet completed her MA is supervising undergraduates, as well. That must be tricky for the supervisor, and she might have been over-enthusiastic.

grumpmitchell Wed 18-May-16 10:13:45

Thanks very much for this perspective. I recognise that a masters student should not be either teaching us at level 6, or supervising dissertations but to be honest the university is a complete mess. But that's another story. Thanks I'm going to show her these replies to give her an idea of what to do so that she doesn't cross the line.

FoggyBottom Wed 18-May-16 22:52:26

Collusion is a form of plagiarism if students pass off work other people's work as their own.

RobinsAreTerritorialFuckers Wed 18-May-16 22:56:40

Well, collusion is always plagiarism, isn't it? The word implies that it's a dodgy kind of deal. There's no 'if' about it!

FoggyBottom Thu 19-May-16 08:33:58

Late night/phone posting. Meant to expand:

Collusion is a form of plagiarism - both are academic malpractice.

But, as you say, students reading each others' draft work, commenting & providing formative feedback on each others' work, and a tutor also sharing/offering formative feedback - none of these is academic malpractice,

UNLESS OP your friend uses the words and ideas of her supervisor unattributed, as if they were her own. That's cheating.

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