Getting your aunt to write your master's thesis for you: Ethical?

Not-so-hypothetical situation: Suppose you are a grad student trying to write your master’s thesis. You have a mild form of aphasia. While you can think great thoughts, and speak great sentences, you cannot deal with paper and pencil, or a word processing app. It all comes out mush. You know that the subject of your thesis is sound, and you can defend it with all kinds of cites, but you can’t put it to paper. But your aunt is both a professor (at the graduate level) and a published author. Is it OK to get her to type it up for you, edit it, add the footnotes, etc.? Is it the ideas behind the paper that count, or should you be denied your degree because you can’t write a thesis?

Yes, this happened to people I know.

Are you dictating the thesis to her and she’s typing it?

Or are you saying “I have a great idea!” and she’s actually WRITING IT?

First one is ok.

Second one is handing in someone elses work as your own, which is NOT ok. If you can’t get your shit together enough to actually put an idea on paper, I don’t think you deserve a masters degree.

I’m not really sure, but I get the impression that it’s somewhere in between the two. I think that certain phrases are being taken verbatim, but not all. The aunt spent several hours editing it and cleaning it up.

This is sort of my position as well, until I think about aphasia as a handicap.

Likely ethical. Hardly unethical to have an editor check a thesis for grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. Would it be unethical if before I submitted a thesis I used MS Word to spot errors in spelling and syntax?

Good point, although I should point out that it was more than a simple spell-check. I think there were some sections that were entirely rewritten, though the original ideas remained intact.

I would think that the underlying ideas/concepts of the paper are what are important. For example, if I write something and someone else suggests a better way of expressing it, it’s still my idea and my concept. If the aunt suggests different phraseology, that’s okay. But if she starts adding to the idea and concept, that’s not. At that point, it becomes a joint effort.

Quick question to throw in the mix as I have never written a master’s thesis. Should you give credit to your Aunt for typing and editing the paper? Should you also include her credentials?

I’m absolutely amazed! Have you all lost your senses? Anything other than having someone proof the thesis for punctuation and grammar is not even close to being near the parking lot of the arena of ethical.

Write your own damn paper. You say you can’t write well? Well, lets see, what could possibly help improve your writing skills? How about WRITING?!

And I’ll offer you this—in fact, I guarantee it: If you can’t communicate your thoughts well on paper it’s probably because your ideas are not as well thought out as you might think. Writing forces you to make sure your reasoning is sound; that you are logically moving from point to point. Many has been the time that I thought I understood something well until I had to write about it, which caused me to go back into pre-writing mode: digesting the information, analyzing it, and formulating thoughts.

So don’t rob yourself of what is one of the best tools to improve your thinking. That is, having to commit those thoughts to the stark reality of paper.

I commend you for asking the question. To those who should know better I offer :confused: :frowning: :mad: :eek: :rolleyes: :dubious: :smack: :mad: :mad: :mad: :smack: :smiley: :confused:

What part of

don’t you understand?

Yeah, Christopher Reeve could have walked if he just tried harder. :rolleyes:

First, the person who does this will need to defend the thesis before the committee, so he/she will need to be very familiar with the ideas and concepts in it. Second, what are the chances that the aunt’s contributions are obvious to the committee? If she is in the same field, it’s possible one of them will be familiar with her work. If they suspect or learn of her contribution, her reputation will be ruined in addition.

To help the conversation:

What is aphasia? Aphasia is an impairment of language, affecting the production or comprehension of speech and the ability to read or write. Aphasia is always due to injury to the brain-most commonly from a stroke, particularly in older individuals. But brain injuries resulting in aphasia may also arise from head trauma, from brain tumors, or from infections.

from here:

So, assuming this person gets their masters degree. Then what - is the aunt going to write every journal article or book that this person chooses to submit as well?

I’m sorry, disability or no disability, at some point a line has to be drawn. Frankly I think it’s a total cop out to say “I have aphasia so I can’t write my own thesis.”

You write the damn thing, and then edit the hell out of it, same as everybody else does. You don’t have someone else write the entire thing and then take credit for it.

Its the same reason I think that a quadrapaligic can’t be a surgeon - if you’re watching what someone else does, and telling them what to do - you’re not a surgeon, you’re someone directing a surgeon. (Please note - I said surgeon, NOT physician).

What if the aunt has no specific technological or other knowledge about the topic of the thesis? As in on her own couldn’t write a thesis that wouldn’t be laughed at.

But the aunt has a graduate degree of some sort, and has therefore written a thesis that didn’t get laughed at.

I got some news for you sunshine. D’ya have any idea as to what the et. al. often actually contribute to published papers? Common they are just basically top notch writers/editors. Ethical in that they actually are named as contributors.

The more open her involvement is, the better.

Oh, give me a fucking break. If someone wants to get a Master’s they’re going to have to read and write quite a bit along the journey. And this person is now working on his thesis, so he’s come pretty far. So, I doubt we’re talking about “a mild form of aphasia” in a different way that we talk about every other healthy boy with energy having ADD. And unless he is going for a Master’s in selling used cars, he’s going to have to do quite a bit of reading and writing wherever his degree takes him.

The aunt is in social psych, the niece is, I think, in abnormal child psych and social work. Similar, but definitely not the same.

As far as the aunt’s contributions go, I don’t think she added any content of her own. She most likely said things like “Consider the ramifications of Skinner’s work”, or “Consider rephrasing this sentence (and then doing it herself)”, or “I found an error in your statistcal analysis.” Come to think of it, she does the same stuff for most of her grad students, minus the actual typing.

Sounds to me like the person should get a speech-recognition word processor. Then they could dictate the thesis directly to the computer, and the aunt could proof it.

To be more specific, she has a Ph. D. in psychology, and is a full time professor (well, she was, until she took the Stupidest Job in the World) who helps students with doctorate theses (thesii?) all the time. In fact sometimes she helps them with their research. The university seems to be OK with this, in fact it seems it’s the way things are done.

The difference with the niece is that the aunt is doing 100% of the physical typing.

I should also add that I don’t think the niece is going to spend her career writing white papers. She’s more of a people person.