Are most academic theses merely regurgitating others’ work?

JISHOU, HUNAN — This question is addressed in all seriousness to you academics out there, specifically those with more experience reading bachelor’s and master’s theses in Western countries. I ask because most theses that I’ve been reading here just seem to be retreads of the same basic paper, with little or no original thought in them. Students ask me to read over their theses, for grammar and what not. Maybe in all I’ve read a dozen bachelor’s or master’s thesis, which for the most part are absolute drivel. The assignment seems to be a pro forma exercise toward obtaining their degree. Whether the paper makes any contribution to world knowledge seems not so important. Is this strictly a Chinese thing? Or is it because this university is a third-tier institution? Or is it more widespread? In other words, are most American graduation theses also merely summaries of what others have published? Let me explain further. Our Business English majors have to write a 6,000 to 8,000 word graduation paper in English in their senior year. The college has a list of about 50 suitable topics, such as, the difficulties of the translation of contracts, cross-cultural business negotiation strategies, the translation ...

Another term draws to a close 10

JISHOU, HUNAN — I’ve been up to my eyeballs in work these last two weeks, so I haven’t had time to post anything. Even this one will be short. This term I had only three subjects to teach, Oral English, British Literature and Academic Writing, but the last two upped my workload significantly. The juniors in Business English take those courses, and altogether there are 90 students. Their term project for the writing class was to read a novel by a British author, and write an analytical paper of 1,000 to 2,000 words about it. Given the average length was about 1,400 words, my ambitious assignment required me to read 126,000 words between the due date, June 16, and my self-imposed deadline of Friday (yesterday here). Most of that I did once classes ended a week ago. Meanwhile, I had already agreed to help out one of my Chinese teacher friends with her English school, so in the mornings I was teaching middle schoolers and the afternoons and evenings I was reading essays. Phew. As for the quality of the essays, they fit the standard distribution pretty closely: a few superb ones, a few truly awful ones, and the rest ...

How rumors get started … 7

JISHOU, HUNAN — When George Washington resigned his commission as commander of the Continental Army in 1783, he sent a short letter to the 13 governors of the former colonies. Many years hence, part of his letter was plagiarized to create a spurious document, “Washington’s Prayer,” which is now bouncing around the Intertubes. You see, some people are trying to convince us that the Founding Fathers were all Bible-thumping, Trinitarian, fundamentalist Christians, and that therefore, the USA is a “Christian Nation.” For the most part, the Founding Fathers were not any of the above. Lacking any supporting evidence in the US Constitution and US legal code, historical revisionists grasp at straws to puff up their claims. Here are the last three paragraphs of the actual document. Circular Letter Addressed to the Governors of all the States on the Disbanding of the Army, June 14, 1783 ... I have thus freely declared what I wished to make known, before I surrendered up my public trust to those who committed it to me. The task is now accomplished. I now bid adieu to your Excellency, as the chief magistrate of your State, at the same time I bid a last farewell to ...
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