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

As bad as she is with writing, she’s worse with technology. Scary worse.

a·pha·sia Pronunciation Key (-fzh)
n. Partial or total loss of the ability to articulate ideas or comprehend spoken or written language, resulting from damage to the brain caused by injury or disease.

How did you or your hypothetical student get through HS let alone achieve a BS degree without cheating. A master’s thesis is susposed to be a demonstration of YOUR abilities, all around, not your aunt"s or anyone else.
Are you using aphasia as an excuse for being lazy or as a crutch?
Final question: How long do you think you will last in the business world?

Honestly, not being able to write your own paper IS a handicap, but it’s not one that should stop the person from being able to do research. In my current lab, research assistants help write stuff, proof read, edit, etc all the time. It’s a pretty standard way of working as far as I know. Having an editor who knows what’s going on can only be a good thing, I’d say. Are Master’s theses always single author papers? I’d imagine that at the least the PI would get a name on there as well. Why not add the aunt’s name?

spingears, just to set the record straight, I am not the niece. Wrong gender and all. The aphagia is not an excuse to be lazy, it was a solid diagnosis. (And a recent one.)

How she got through school with this affliction? I don’t know. She is very smart, has an overbearing mother, and a rich father. She must have managed somehow.

And what will she do if she has to write a report on an individual, that other doctors are then going to act on. Pretty scary of you ask me. Ethics aside, I seriously think the best thing she could do is to work on and struggle through her writing. It won’t handicap her in her career, or put her patients or research at a disadvantage.

Good point. She’s not always going to get someone to do it for her.

At the same time, I’d hate to see her not get her degree. She has a real talent for that line of work, and has worked some real miracles on some pretty disturbed children.

Whether she could succeed with her issue is a different story. But when someone has a handicap, telling them to try harder is rather pointless, don’t you think?

That sounds like the kind of stuff any good thesis advisor should do - though I wonder how many do this for Master’s theses.

My PhD advisor did this so well that we always gave him the latest version and one version back, so he didn’t keep toggling a change back and forth between versions, never happy with it.

As for typing, when I wrote my dissertation, non-CS types never typed their theses, but almost always paid someone to do it. I suspect they wrote it longhand, or typed it sloppily, but they could have dictated it. I suspect that many of the typists did editing also.

That’s nice toots. Actually - I do know what the et al means. In the sciences, the first author is the person who did most of the work, the primary experiments, and provided a good deal of the ideas, the last author is the senior author, who in many cases wrote the article, using input from the first author, second and third authors completed some experiments, or perhaps lent a reagent, or some specialized DNA or animal to the mix.

However, all of the people who are listed contribute to the research in some way - there’s no such thing as a “pinch writer” in the sciences, and I don’t imagine there is in Psych either. I’m currently completing a Psych degree and I can pretty well promise that if I decide to have someone else write my papers, and I get caught, I’m going to be invited to leave the program.

Having an editor is one thing (and a pretty good idea). Having someone actually write your thesis is another matter entirely.

I was presuming the writer was mostly just the scientist. Later reviewed, proofread and edited by another. What if the latter is so ignorant of Psych all they knew about Freud was “he was a guy long ago who thought sexual thoughts were very important”?

How would someone who was ignorant of psych write a psych thesis?

The aunt has a phd in psych, and the neice is getting a masters - it’s obvious that the aunt knows a bit about the topic. Now, if the aunt is acting as an editor - spelling, grammer, style, etc, no problem. However, if the aunt is saying you need to do more experiments here, or you forgot about Roger’s theory of Unconditional Positive Regard and you’re going to have to include that - here just let me add it in for you, I think that’s crossing the line, big time.

Having someone else physically type up the thesis - nobody’s arguing that that’s a problem.

Having someone else review and correct spelling and puncuation and basic grammar errors - no real problem here.

Having somebody else offer advise or opinions about the content - getting into a gray area.

Having somebody else contribute to the content of the thesis - this is wrong.

So the question is; how much and what kind of help was given?

Of course, your cover’s blown if the prof runs the paper through and gets a hit.

It seems to me like it should be very easy to determine whether this is unethical by answering the following question: Do the aunt or the niece believe that the degree to which the aunt is helping needs to be hidden from the thesis commitee? If so, then the degree would be granted under false pretenses.

The ethics of the situation would be a lot simpler if it were someone other than the aunt helping with the typing part - I mean, this kind of thing is what psych 101 students are for! (Well, that and being experimented on.) Then that help would clearly only be what’s needed to compensate for her disability and the aunt would be just an advisor.

If it were me, I would not want someone with a PhD in my subject writing my thesis up for me - I wouldn’t want anyone thinking that I hadn’t earned the degree myself.

I’d say it is unethical. Nothing stopped the student from getting her diagnosis in writing, going to whoever’s in charge of assisting special needs students, and explaining the whole thing to their advisor or professor or whoever and getting their input as to what is acceptable. I see no indication that that ever happened here. The student wanted a masters degree and got a masters degree, but she didn’t fulfil the requirements. Re: the Christopher Reeve comments-- Christopher Reeve could have completed the NY Marathon in his electric wheelchair, too, but that doesn’t mean that the record wouldn’t have had to note the fact that he wasn’t a (foot) runner.

Where did you get your degree in neurology from, again? Sorry to be glib here, but we don’t know what the niece’s past schools offered in terms of help, so we don’t know how she got to where she is now. For example, in high school, I had friends with ADD and one friend who was dyslexic. They had various resource room classes and aides, and got extended time on tests. We also don’t know much about the niece’s specific problems, so I think this is WAY too presumptuous. You’re right, on the other hand, that since this is her work, she needs to be familiar with all of the ideas and shouldn’t be taking too much help in the ideas (as opposed to typing) for both ethical and practical reasons.
The speech recognition software sounds like the best idea, although I guess in theory her aphasia could still pose a problem.

A degree doesn’t give any guarantee that you’ll get a job in a related field, or that you’re actualy able to handle such a job. Plenty of people get degrees in fields they’ve zero intent to work in, or after they retire, etc…

So, this person could be completely unable to actually work as a psychologist and still could deserve a degree, which basically just proves that she’s aknowledgeable about psychology.

Recently there was a little flurry of media attention when a private tutor for high school students revealed that she routinely wrote assignments for senior students to boost there final marks (they are derived from a mixture of exam results and homework assignments). It soon became apparent that this was not an isolated circumstance and that it continued into tertiary education. One guy on talkback radio had people ringing for days. The story was always no we didn’t get permission, no we wouldn’t like others to know she did it, yes I can see how it cheats other students BUT her excuse is blah blah.

My favorite was the graduate brother who does all his sister’s homewrk because “she can’t do it she gets too much homework what with singing, dancing, her job at the boutique.”

It seemed almost universally from the people that I heard that the practice is confined to Asian families other than older females in western families. I remember my ex-wife once “prettied-up” some of my son’s homework - just absent mindedly fooling around. He was furious.

Who writes Hawkings’ articles?