Re: Ethics of editing theses

Subject: Re: Ethics of editing theses
From: Nancy Hayes <nancyh -at- PMAFIRE -dot- INEL -dot- GOV>
Date: Mon, 4 Dec 1995 21:26:43 GMT

Most of the time, I think the "ethics" of having someone edit a thesis is
something that can only be judged on a case by case basis by the people
involved. I know people feel that anything short of a simple copyedit is
unethical because the document no longer becomes the author's "original

For the most part, I don't agree with this. Obviously, if the editor is
doing the research, analysis, drafting, and final drafting of the thesis,
that's unethical. But I don't think most =ethical= editors will do
that--regardless if the document is a resource on software applications
or some student's thesis on Christ symbolism in Conrad's -Lord Jim-. The
function of the editor is to clarify--not to rewrite. Making suggestions
on form, content, logic, etc. is valuable to the student--and does not
cause the document to be non-original work.

Let's put this in a different perspective. Most teachers think nothing
of tutoring a student, allowing a student to take a draft of a paper to
the University's writing lab, or having a roommate do a quick edit. The
teacher wants the student to turn in the best paper possible, and doesn't
consider the work plagerized because someone else has looked at it. Most
"professional" writers are taught not to rely wholly on their own
judgement. Is it fair, then, after teaching a student to rely on an
editorial function, to NOT allow them this courtesy on the most important
document of their scholastic career? I don't think so.

One last comment: Most theses are not one hundred percent original
work--unless they're a collection of creative writing. Even then, the
student has done research and analysis to determine what type of
collection to write. And these students have had someone go over their
works--or act as an editor.

Sorry for venting, but I just find it ironic that we would allow a
student to go to an editor on undergrad papers, allow professional
authors to go to editors on published documents, but tell a grad student,
"Sorry, you're on your own."

Nancy Lynn Hayes (nancyh -at- pmafire -dot- inel -dot- gov) Carpe Diem
Seize the Day!

PS: For anyone who's interested, I did have a peer editor go over my
thesis to make sure I was being as clear as possible. And the 135 pages
on Incremental Repetition in Tolkien's works collecting dust in the BYU
library isn't anyone's work but mine.

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