Posted on 26-03-2010
Filed Under (Overcoming barriers) by Anita Kelly

After much anticipation, I finally heard back from a big literary agent in New York about my newest idea for a book (incidentally, it’s called, The Unpopular Child: How to Help Your Kid Fit in). She wrote, ”This one really rubbed me the wrong way.”


After feeling low about my prospects for getting a major book deal for a few days, I am now fired up and ready to work even harder on a new book idea.

It’s when we’re down and questioning our talents that we have the greatest opportunity to rise up and overcome our shortcomings. So, if you just got feedback on a paper or test and didn’t get the grade you were hoping for, keep in mind that you will have many opportunities to prove just how well you can do. One paper says little about how good a writer you are or how good you can be. Hang in there…you’ve still got your final papers and exams ahead of you.  You can figure out what went wrong and redouble your efforts to ace them.

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Posted on 19-03-2010
Filed Under (Appropriate behavior) by Anita Kelly

…and easier to get caught at it. Sadly, as the Chair of Notre Dame’s Arts and Letters Honesty Committee, I have been seeing more and more cases of plagiarism. I’ve seen perfectly intelligent students take word-for-word from the Internet several long passages or even their whole paper and try to pass it off as their own work.

It’s as if they don’t realize that professors can spot wording that is too professional sounding, too formal, or just plain too good to be the student’s own work. Then their professor can run the suspicious paper through a an Internet plagiarism detection service called TurnItIn. The service will tell the professor what percentage of the paper has been plagiarized.

The professor will then report the case to our Honesty Committee. The evidence from these TurnItIn reports can be so compelling that we are left with little choice but to find the student guilty and impose a hefty penalty to the student’s overall grade in that professor’s course.

So here’s a simple solution if you want to use written material from the Internet in your paper. Just rephrase everything — don’t take anything word-for-word unless you use quotation marks around it. And whether you paraphrase or put something in quotes, you must cite the source. Is that so hard?

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Posted on 12-03-2010
Filed Under (Conflicts over grades) by Anita Kelly

Every semester some students miss the mark on my first exam. Sadly, they do far worse than they expect and are left wondering what do to. Since there are only 3 exams (and no final) that make up the whole grade for the semester, they are in a tough spot.

Some will email me and tell me how bad they feel. They will ask what I think they should do. They seem surprised when I respond, “What prevents you from dropping my class?” It’s as if students believe that we professors think that you should stick it out no matter what. They think that things somehow will get better by the end of the semester if  they simply stick it out.

Here’s my advice: If your university gives you the opportunity to drop classes well into the semester, do it. Dump those classes that will hurt your GPA. There is no reason to feel guilty for dropping.

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Posted on 05-03-2010
Filed Under (Overcoming barriers) by Anita Kelly

This week I happened to catch part of a Biography channel’s special on Howard Schultz, the super-successful entrepreneur behind Starbucks’  becoming a coffee-house sensation. The show detailed how Mr. Schultz had come from extreme poverty to become a multi-millionaire. A key to his rise was the usual story: An optimistic entrepreneur persisting in the face of long odds to obtain extreme success. The message is one we Americans hear over and over about how if we try hard enough, we can reach any goal.

However, Lisa Aspinwall and Linda Richter (1999) discovered an interesting thing about optimists. Optimists, as compared with pessimists, are more likely to quit an unsolvable task if they can switch to a solvable one. Thus, it might not be so much that persistence is key to the success of optimists. Rather, it’s a combination of persistence plus staying only with efforts that are most likely to pay off.

So if you get rejected on some project that means a lot to you, maybe you should persist on it… Or maybe you should consider switching to something else that is more likely to get accepted.

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