Essay-mill-proof assignments

This showed up as a cute side-bar on a political blog:
“…essay mills… can succeed only because college professors all over the Western world assign precisely the same kinds of papers.”

http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2009/03/essay-mills

As an antidote, the writer established a contest. Propose a topic that’s truly essay-mill-resistant. Better yet, propose a general algorithm that makes any topic harder to fake from a distance.

Most of the replies (so far) focus on juggling the topics. But think about it as a writer’s challenge. Suppose you were teaching a college writing course (not much of a stretch for many of us). Imagine a writing assignment which would be essay-mill proof because of writing requirements, rather than topic manipulation?

For instance:

  1. A thousand words on vegan nutrition, each sentence beginning with the letter “R.”
  2. Fifteen hundred words on any Dickens novel using no adjectives.

More?

  • A paper written in pirate dialect
  • A paper with at least 3 puns in every paragraph

Bonus marks for combining the two!

An essay in which the second letter in each word forms an acrostic which denies the essay’s primary argument, and in which the seventh letter in each word (each word must be longer than seven letters - no articles allowed) forms an acrostic that spells out insults pertaining to the spouse of the professor who set the essay, insults involving such intimate and telling details that the professor had hitherto believed only himself privy to. Each sentence must be written using the fourteenth-century variant of the alliterative four-stress line as perfected by the Gawain poet, and the words that bookend every sixth sentence, when spoken together, must form phonetically a swear word from a well-known science fiction program. Every third paragraph must contain sixty syllables with an exclamation mark following the thirtieth, but placed in such a way as to feel natural and in-keeping with content of the preceding sentence. Every forty-second sentence should, when read aloud, sound like a French insult (unless writing in French, in which case it should sound like an English insult). The final paragraph of the essay must explain how the Head Six in Battlestar Galactica managed to appear to everybody in season one and leave her glasses behind, but this must feel natural and not a nonsequitur; no matter what the essay topic, whether on haemorrhoids or Hemingway, this must seem a fitting conclusion to the argument. The thirty-sixth paragraph should use an invented punctuation mark and all of the "th"s on page seven should be replaced with the Old English eth character. The letter “o” should not be used except in the second or seventh letter of a word where it is necessary for an acrostic to make sense. The last letter of each paragraph should form a sentence explaining what on earth is going on in J.D. Salinger’s story, “Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes”. The first letter of every fifth paragraph should form a sentence referring the reader to the last letter in every sixth paragraph. The last letter in every sixth paragraph should form the reverse of the sequence of letters that appears first in every fifth paragraph. The twelfth paragraph must contain this sentence, in context: “I am a fish.” The number of characters, when added accumulatively (first three words = 6, 1+2+3), must be a prime number.

That is all. End of line.

I believe the answer to that essay is: The Torah.

Are you employed on the side as a question-setter for the Open University, Keith? Some of your rubric seems remarkably in keeping with some of the essays I had to write last year, but instead of Battlestar Galactica and fish, I had to work in irrelevant references to gender studies and Shakespeare performance. :slight_smile:

Actually I think he may have been drinking. Possibly in morning of vic-k’s absence. Or maybe in celebration of the afore mentioned absence. Hmm, now that is a stumper…

KB: Were you answering my question, or trying to analyze one of Thomas Pynchon’s novels?

On the (ubiquitous) other hand, Amber may be correct, though I’m a bit leery of the Hemingway reference.

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If you have any issue with writing your essay online - just contact this site and complete your essay in no time.
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Moderator Note: URL removed; spam remains hilarious.

I think what KB must have had in mind was the code base for Scrivener.

:laughing:

Mark

It seems as if the original assignment has not passed the essay-mill test it was proposing! :smiling_imp: :laughing:

Mark