“With a snow-white pillow for my big, fat head…”

In the murky world of trade publishing, accomplishments are relative. How does one judge the success of a little mass-market book about Charlemagne: Amazon rankings? Attendance at library talks? Emails from history and genealogy buffs?

I don’t know—but I must be doing something right, because some cheeseball paper mill is hawking a five-page paper about my book. For $49.75—a mere $9.95 per page—you even get a bibliography with two—two!—sources.

Of course, the intelligent plagiarist would economize. Behold: the same service also offers the enthralling “Justinian vs. Charlemagne.” With its three pages and three sources, he would save 60 percent and enjoy a 50 percent increase in the size of his bibliography. Apparently, the paper weighs the relative awesomeness of the two emperors “and argues that the Mandate of Heaven (the right to continue ruling) should go to Justinian.”

And really, what history prof wouldn’t want to receive a paper about that?

3 thoughts on ““With a snow-white pillow for my big, fat head…”

  1. Wow.

    Things have sure changed from when I was an undergraduate years ago. Of course, back then we had to type our papers on typewriters.

    $50 for a five page paper? No one I knew back at Michigan State would have spent that kind of money on a paper. Heck that would been the equivalent to about five bar nights back then for the average student.

    And then what would happen if the prof assigned ten pages? Do these lazy asses then try to screw with the margins to stretch things to fit the guidelines as if it were some Procrustean bit of logic tying to count the cover page and the bibliography as separate pages.

    Hmmm, I now wonder if this five page paper only has four pages of text and one page for the plethora of two sources.

    Gah! I hope you warn your students about the penalties to those found using these kinds of websites or plagiarizing in general, be it expulsion or damage to their academic/professional reputation.



  2. I inform students on the first night of class that I derive no small satisfaction from referring suspected plagiarists to the dean’s office for judgment, sentencing, and administrative horsewhipping.

    What most bad students can’t comprehend is that individual incompetence has its own distinctive markings, like a fingerprint. As an adjunct with no more than 25 students per semester, I’m never overwhelmed; my students and their papers don’t blur into each other. I quickly learn the strengths and weaknesses of each, so woe to the student who, after a full semester of consistently shaky written work, submits a paper in a voice that’s either improbably sophisticated or strangely innovative in its incompetence.

    The five-pager about my book is probably a hoot to read–although I’d never pay 50 bucks to confirm that.


  3. Jeff,

    Good I’m glad to hear that.

    As for recognizing changes in writing styles…here’s an anecdote from when I first started dating my husband in our freshman year in college. He was a whiz in advanced mathematics, but not so good with the written word.

    Our intake exams placed us in dramatically different levels for English composition. He was in the developmental class and I ranked at honors level.

    Soon after we got together I started tutoring him. I didn’t write his papers so it was still his voice, but I reviewed them and made editorial suggestions. I expected his professor to notice the improvement and to see that reflected in his grades.

    It didn’t. They remained the same. It was as if the prof had decided at the beginning of class that Scott was a “C” student and so once a new paper came across his desk bearing Scott’s name a “C” immediately sprang to mind.

    I took it as a personal insult because I knew that the papers were better than that because dammit I improved them.

    All these years later I’m still bearing a grudge against a prof I never met who deemed that papers I worked on as being “C” material.

    The good thing is that Scott’s writing skills are fine now and you would never know that he needed to take intensive English comp classes in college.

    Oh and yes, I would never advise you to waste $50 to find out what was in that online paper. However, if someone asks you what they could get you for Christmas or your birthday that you don’t already have…




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