Academic integrity

Kathryn Edgeworth

Why does academic integrity matter?

As we say above, our editing focuses on key aspects of your chosen service without changing meaning or affecting content (that is, the thoughts, ideas, research and information you provide). We abide by this principle because universities have detailed policies about cheating and plagiarism in relation to assessment.

At the same time, collaborative approaches to research and writing are increasing. Professional partnerships between people like academics and higher-degree students with non-academic partners like editors have become a necessary and appreciated part of the research landscape. Impactful research and the demands of funding rounds have produced a need for quality, expert editors and writers to assist with non-assessed, co-produced types of writing.

What does this mean in practice?

At Little Big Editing we say that we proofread and edit grammar. We also say we won’t change the meaning of your work. Are these ideas contradictory in practice? An example might be illustrative here:


If you write:

Alex Bryce (2005) has been widely cited as the resident expert for teachers regarding student exhibits. He proclaims that “exhibiting student art is art education’s best kept secret” (p. 10).  Why best kept secret?  Bryce’s writings are 15 years old and, unfortunately, there is no other complete text for art educators regarding the sophisticated process of creating student art exhibits.  Yet, there is current research to indicate that an art education is of vital importance to a student’s success in life. The art show is the final important step in that process.

And we change what you have written to:

Alex Bryce is a widely cited expert on student exhibits. His book, Showing Student Art (2005), is a seminal text in the field of student art shows. Since the publication of this text, few other authors have produced publications of similar significance on the process of creating sophisticated student art exhibits (see, for example, Oldford, 2015). Yet, research indicates that art education is vitally important to students’ success in life. Bryce argues that “exhibiting student art is art education’s best kept secret” (p. 10).  What does he mean by ‘best kept secret’?  The ‘show’ – the process of showing off art – is the final important step in the making of art.

By fixing grammar and improving the research and writing, have we created an ‘ethical’ problem? 

As a client, you want a document with no errors. And we want to give you this! We really do! It’s a win-win!

So, what’s the catch? Is there one?

The answer is ‘no’ if your work is not being submitted for assessment.

Let’s look briefly at this example if you’re someone who is subject to university rules re assessment.

This document is likely to be unethical. Universities may think so and they make the rules. Put simply, the above example is probably cheating. Or to use the official term, plagiarism. Plagiarism occurs if you submit our work as your own. If we help you to do this, both of us may fail an ‘integrity’ test. That’s not cool. It’s not fair to other students and colleagues and, as we’ll go on to explain, we’d be letting ourselves down too.

So why is this example a concern? 

In this example, the student wrote that there was no current research, other than the text referred to, on the topic. This was incorrect. The editor, a subject specialist, knew this to be factually untrue and suggested a current text to improve the research. This was a nice thing to do, but it didn’t reflect the student’s research or knowledge of the subject. The edited writing reflects what the editor knows about art, not what the student knows. If the editor had simply put a suggestion about further reading in a comment, things would have been fine and dandy.

So, some simple ideas to keep in mind:

1.    At the end of the day, the document you provide and the document we edit should look like they were written by the same person – you.
It should be clear to anyone who compares your original and edited documents that the author is the same. If too many improvements have been made to the original document so that it looks substantively different – or even unrecognisable  - from the original, this is likely to an issue in terms of plagiarism. 

2.    On a positive note, universities often encourage the use of editors:
•    Simply acknowledge that you have used a professional editor at the start of your document and you’ll be fine!
•    Check the guidelines of your institution for information in relation to the use of editors.

3.    Making mistakes is part of the process of learning how to be a better writer and student.
If you’re still learning to write at university, you shouldn’t be afraid of errors in language, writing or research. While many people like perfection and it’s a nice aim, the people giving feedback on your work need to see a document that accurately represents your skills to provide good advice about how you can improve. 

Think about it from the perspective of an examiner or marker. In front of them is a piece of work and it’s unclear whose work it is. If there is no statement from the student saying the work has been edited, the marker might worry about whether the document is the original work of the student. If there is a concern that the document contains the work of someone other than the person who submitted the document, this is when a plagiarism issue might be raised – and you don’t want this!

When is editing okay?

To be clear, there should be no problem if:

•    the work is entirely that of the student; or
•    a statement is provided saying that the document has been professionally edited; or
•    where editing does not change meaning or content. It should be clear to anyone comparing original and edited documents that the author is the same.
The first thing to note is every customer and circumstance is individual and unique. So every document and edit is different. We understand this and will work with you to get the best outcome for you.

Remember, the best reason to have integrity is your reputation.

It’s about not letting yourself down.

About our CEO

Dr Kathryn Edgeworth has published in internationally peer-reviewed journals and books. She has an academic background in the humanities and social sciences, politics, human geography, history, English literature, sociology and education.

Kathryn has a 20+ year career in academia, teaching and research. She has contributed to research and teaching in the creative industries, health sciences, commerce and media industries.

Here is a small selection of her recent publications.

Meet Dr Kathryn Edgeworth, the CEO behind little big editing

“I know a lot about writing and that’s one of the reasons I started this venture. I’m working on making writing easier, with more accessible, quality feedback for people of all abilities.

My work is about embracing writing and helping people make their work shine. It’s about thinking differently about how words are organised and unpacking the mystery around this.

With my own PhD, I wanted an editor to care about my thesis as if it were their own. I can be trusted to be that someone for you.”

Kathryn Edgeworth is a writer, editor, mentor and speaker, based out of Melbourne and South West Victoria, Australia. She has published internationally on equity and diversity and is on a mission to make an impact. She also runs the company Little Big Editing, mentors higher education students in research, and teaches young people how to be better readers, writers and critical thinkers.

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