Before your next class session, you are to write a paper synthesizing the ideas in a group of articles and email it to your professor. You don't like the class, it isn't in your major, you don't understand the articles and you have more important things to do. You consider asking a friend in the class to let you adapt his paper, but decide you'd better to do the assignment yourself. As you're reading the articles, you feel frustrated -- you can't very well synthesize or even paraphrase ideas that you can't even understand, but you're afraid to ask for help because you think this means admitting ignorance. So you copy what seem to be the most important sentences from the articles, work in some transitions and prepare to send the paper off.
You risk: Suspension or expulsion, a failing grade for the assignment or course, and a notation on your record. Disciplinary action is part of your disciplinary record for four years after you graduate (or eight years from your date of matriculation), and, if you are suspended or expelled, the suspension or expulsion is permanently noted on your transcript. If it's a first and minor offense, your professor may choose to resolve the matter with you outside of the judicial process.
There are also important personal risks in such decisions: your self-regard begins to erode. You not only compromise the quality of the work you submit in a particular assignment, but over time you also compromise your values. Are your decisions -- even "small" ones, like copying someone else's words -- consistent with the kind of person you want to be?
You risk: Learning! Also, getting better acquainted with your professor or the teaching assistant, who can help you understand this new material. Don't be surprised if you also develop a better appreciation of his or her subject at the same time, as passionate experts sometimes have that effect. It is possible that he or she may give you a penalty on your grade if you need an extension. Other risks include finding yourself setting up an appointment with a tutor in the Writing Studio or someone in Academic Resources for the first time, and realizing how much they can help you with your academic work on this occasion as well as in future classes.
To choose this option:
E-mail your professor (or call or stop by) and ask for an appointment, explaining that you need help understanding the articles. You may also need to ask for an extension. (You can find a professor's email address, phone number and office location using the Duke Phonebook.)
Remember that some of the most successful Duke students are not necessarily the brightest or most knowledgeable, but the ones who seek out support when they need it.
Get help from the Academic Skills Instructional Program (ASIP).
Set up a private conference with an instructor in the Academic Skills Instructional Program. ASIP faculty can help you to improve your reading comprehension and develop important study strategies. Call 684-5917 to schedule an appointment.
Arrange to meet with a peer tutor
If it's an introductory-level course, you can meet on a regular basis with someone in the Peer Tutoring Program for private, individualized assistance. You might also consider a less formal peer tutoring arrangement, such as discussing the articles with a knowledgeable classmate, or assembling a study group to help address points you don't understand.
Make an appointment with the Writing Studio
The Writing Studio offers 50-minute one-on-one tutoring sessions. They can help you learn to summarize material effectively and to cite quoted material correctly.
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