Writers Resources

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Why Are There Cheaters In The Classroom?

Published June 27, 2014 by M E McMahon




“Everybody cheats a little.” “I don’t do well on tests.” “I didn’t have time to study.” These are three common excuses used by students when confronted with the fact that they have committed the crime of academic dishonesty. Plagiarism, copying and pasting works from the Internet or blatant offenses such as buying a term paper are all too common occurrences in the hallowed halls of academia. Educators are frustrated and cry out “Why do students cheat?”

Poor study habits, test anxiety and the temptation to simplify a lazy student’s academic life have been pointed out as the major contributors to cheating. However, educators may find that there are other reasons for those cheaters in their classrooms. Factors such as subtle behavioral and situational factors in the testing environment, weak penalties administered by universities, and educators who stress performance over mastery of a subject may all contribute to cheating in the classroom.

Modern research has produced some surprising results in studies that tested how certain behavioral and situational factors can affect a student’s willingness to risk cheating. In one study, a group of psychologists found that the lighting in a testing area can affect cheating. Participants felt protected from observation in a dimly lit room during the experiment when in reality, they were being closely monitored.  The darkened room provided an “illusory anonymity” which researchers suggest provides an environment that makes one more likely to engage in behaviors that one normally wouldn’t engage in, such as cheating.

Additional research found that people also cheat when told their behavior is a result of genes and the environment, as opposed to free will. This philosophy of high determinism provides behavioral cues that rationalize and excuse one’s decision to cheat. In other words, students feel that they are pre-destined to steal another student’s answers because they are not smart enough to learn the material on their own.

Another reason students might turn their backs on the old adage “to thine own self be true” is the academia’s reluctance to expel students who are caught cheating. One example is the 2012 plagiarism scandal at the prestigious Harvard University. Over 125 students were probed as suspected members of the largest cheating ring in recent history. Out of 125 students, one-half were forced to withdraw from the college for two to four terms, twenty-five percent were put on disciplinary probation and the remaining students suffered no consequences. Harvard stopped short of expelling the fifty percent who were found guilty of plagiarism. Those students can reapply for admission in the near future and go on to become leading politicians, lawyers or doctors.

Weak penalties are also handed out by universities in the UK. Sean Conklin, a BBC education news reporter, states that a 2008 report from the Higher Education Academy and Joint Information Systems Committee found that only 143 United Kingdom university students were expelled out of approximately 9,200 cases of cheating. More than 98% of students caught cheating were allowed to stay at the university, even though they had been caught before. The message to college students seems to be “Don’t get caught, but if you do, don’t worry. You won’t get thrown out of school.” Consequently, these weak penalties give students very little reason not to cheat.

However, some believe that students should not carry all the blame when it comes to cheating in the classroom. When educators stress the importance of high test scores and develop their courses around standardized tests, they must also take into account their role in placing temptation in the paths of their students. In her article, “A Classroom Where No One Cheats” Jessica Lahey, a correspondent for “The Atlantic”, reveals possible solutions educators can use to combat classroom cheating.

She reports that based on studies performed by James M. Lang, author of the book “Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty,” there are two different types of learners: mastery-oriented and performance-oriented.  According to Lang, mastery-oriented students “pursue understanding” while performance-oriented students strive to “demonstrate their capabilities.” This research found that when students are more focused on their grade point average than the material they are supposed to be learning, they are more likely to cheat.

Lahey states, “The American educational system should focus on the handing down of knowledge and skills rather than test preparation and administration. The same conditions that encourage cheating discourage our students’ mastery of content and skills.” In short, students who feel the pressure to get top marks are more likely to cheat.

Factors such as environmental and behavioral cues, mild repercussions for students who cheat and perception-oriented course curriculums presented by educators might very well sway a student’s decision to cheat. However, ultimately, it comes down to the student’s perception of what cheating might cost them both academically and morally. Cheating, whatever the reason given, is wrong. Students who cheat may find that they not only diminish themselves in the eyes of their university, their peers and their families, they also will have to carry the guilt of not having earned their degree honestly.

“All good is hard. All evil is easy. Dying, losing, cheating, and mediocrity is easy. Stay away from easy.” ~Scott Alexander


Coughlin, S. (2008, June 4). University cheats not expelled. Retrieved from BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/7434277.stm

Harris, P. (2012, August 30). Harvard University probes plagiarism outbreak involving 125 students. Retrieved from The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/education/2012/aug/31/harvard-university-cheating-scandal

Konnikova, M. (2013, October 31). Inside the cheater’s mind. Retrieved from The New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/elements/2013/10/what-makes-people-cheat.html

Lahey, J. (2013, December 12). A classroom where no one cheats. Retrieved from The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/12/a-classroom-where-no-one-cheats/282254/

Lang, J. M. (2013). Cheating Lessons: Learning from academic dishonesty. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Murphy, B. (2013, February 1). Harvard cheating scandal ends in dozens of forced withdrawals. Retrieved from Huff Post College: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/01/harvard-cheating-scandal-_n_2600366.html


It’s National Reading Day!

Published January 23, 2014 by M E McMahon


Pick up a book and read! Better yet, pick up a book and read it to someone else! Share the love and share the words!



Cha Ching!

Published January 3, 2014 by M E McMahon


My New Year has certainly started with a bang!  I just received an e-mail from Page and Spine Magazine today accepting my short story “Snapshots” for publication.  In addition to the thrill of having another one of my stories published, I am actually getting paid for this piece! Cha Ching!

Page and Spine Magazine is a weekly online literary magazine dedicated to publishing new and emerging writers and they do offer a token payment.  Since one of my milestones has been to be a Paid Published Author, I can now add that check mark to my “Milestones” page. I am also proud to be a new member of the Page and Spine community!

Now, the payment is small but the satisfaction of being paid for something I love to do is PRICELESS!

The publication date for “Snapshots” has not been determined yet but I’ll keep you updated.  In the meantime, if you’re a writer…check out this excellent site and perhaps you too will soon be hearing the sound “Cha Ching!”

Yours in Writing,

M E McMahon

Publishers Need You!

Published December 27, 2013 by M E McMahon


If you’re a writer, a poet or a photographer, I’m sure you dream of having your work published.  Perhaps you’ve already accomplished that goal and can add the publication of your work to your list of credits when submitting your future work to publishers. But, what if there were no more markets for your hard work?  What if print magazines became a thing of the past or e-zines become extinct due to lack of support?  Where are we to go? What happens to those great short stories, those touching poems or those amazing photos?

No one will see them.  That’s what happens.  How can we prevent that? We can support the publishers that do take a chance on us…who dedicate their time and resources to helping others to get our work in front of the public.

Many of these magazines are run by people who take no salary; they make nothing. Why do they do it? Because they believe in us and they don’t want to stem the tide of creativity that flows from our words or photos. But, with hard economic times, many of these publications are closing their doors.  They need money to continue supporting new and emerging writers; gifted poets and talented photographers.

We must keep in mind that self-publishing is not an option for a short story writer or other small works.  If these publications disappear from view, we will have nowhere to send our stories.  So, how can we help?

Some publications, such as The Storyteller Magazine, offers subscriptions or per copy rates.  If you want a home for your piece, you could order a copy and see if that magazine would make a good home for your story.  Many of these magazines also offer critique services, which I have relied on to “shine up” my stories and at a very low fee, such as Alphie Dog Fiction.  Some of these publications offer you a way to “Pay it forward” by making a donation or paying a reading fee which goes to support programs for young writers.

“But, I want to make money…not spend money!” you cry. Well, unless we support the publishers there will not be a paying market for your work or a place for people to read your stories.

Regina Williams, Editor of Storyteller Magazine, told me that due to the economy, she might be forced to discontinue publishing the print editions and go to an e-zine. This is an international magazine, recognized for it’s quality literature by Harvard University, that will no longer be able to publish print editions.  That would be a huge loss to libraries, schools and writers! We can help!

Check out the Storyteller Magazine, which supports new and emerging writers like us, and order a copy of the magazine.  Or, better yet, sign up for a subscription.  You will be investing in the future of not only the magazine, but a market that is in danger of disappearing from bookshelves!

I live on a limited income, but I do order copies of magazines to see if my stories fit their themes; I pay “reading fees” which are actually donations to support the publications or their young writer programs.  I consider this money an investment in my own future.  If writers will support these publications, they can stay in business and remain an venue in which our work can be published.

So, support these magazines and we’ll all benefit!

Yours in Writing,

M E McMahon

A Christmas Gift For You!

Published December 21, 2013 by M E McMahon


This morning I got an early Christmas Present.  One of my favorite sites that feature great short stories sent me an e-mail that Alphie Dog Fiction is now offering some free short stories as a gift for Christmas.  When I checked it out, I found that everyone can download these stories for free!

I didn’t want to be selfish so I’m writing this to let all of you know that these great short stories are sitting there waiting for you! You can access them here and then sit back and enjoy!  While you’re there, take a look around and sign up for their newsletter! They’re a great site dedicated to supporting new and emerging writers!

I am a huge supporter of Alphie Dog Fiction (Okay, there are three of my stories available there too.  If your interested in checking them out…go to Authors and look up M E McMahon and BOOM! Mine aren’t free though, they cost about 70 cents to download) and I’m sharing their generosity with you so you can check out their site.  If you’re a writer, you should definitely visit them and see if this site might be a nice, cozy spot for your next story!

So, Merry Christmas from M E and Alphie Dog Fiction.

Yours In Writing,

M E McMahon

Strike Up The Band!

Published October 26, 2013 by M E McMahon


It’s celebration time!

The other evening, after a really hectic day, I decided to check my e-mail account one more time before going to bed.  I was tired, worn out and ready to hit the hay but I hate when my e-mail account overflows into the next day so I threw my p.j.’s on and sat down at the laptop.

I was delighted to find a message from Linda Barnett-Johnson, Assistant Editor of Long Story Short – Ezine For Writers informing me that they have accepted my short story “My Father, The Plagiarist” for publication in their November/December issue.

I am not only thrilled at having another story published, but I have been reading Long Story Short for quite some time and love what they do.  Their e-zine has been supporting new and emerging writers for the past ten years and Long Story Short has been on the Writer’s Digest List of 101 Best Websites for Writers…for 9 years straight!  I have no doubt they’ll make it on the list again for 2013!

Not only does the staff publish an e-zine, they also offer writing classes, updates on upcoming contests, free writing tips and so much more!  If you’re a new or emerging writer or poet, check out their site Here and see how much this website has to offer.

If short stories aren’t your thing but you’ve got a novel ready, check out Linda Barnett-Johnson’s website Here for editing and packaging services that are available!

One thing I should mention.  If you do submit your story to Long Story Short, because of the massive amount of stories submitted, the response time is two to three months.  My response took 87 days…but it was worth the wait to appear in this outstanding E-Zine for Writers!

Well, it’s been a big week!  I’m off to add this new milestone to my Milestones In My Journey page.  Keep writing and keep sending those stories out!

Yours In Writing,


P. S.  If you want to know what my other half, Cranky has been up to just click Here or click on Mrs. Gulch’s picture and she’ll give you a ride over to Grandma Says.  I’ve got another exciting announcement, so come on over!

Reading Like A Writer

Published October 21, 2013 by M E McMahon

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I once read, I can’t remember where (although I want to say it was Stephen King) that writers should read a book twice.  The first time as a reader…the second time as a writer.

I have found that advice invaluable (whoever said it) and I use that technique with everything I read.  I will read a book and see if I like it.  If I do, I then reread it and find out what the writer did to lure me into their world so effectively.  Most of the time, I’ve enjoyed a book or story because of the characters…I love a good hero or a despicable villain.  The plot is important, of course, but if you don’t have great characters with lots of depth and layers, I find it hard to get into the story.

So, if the writer got my attention, I reread it to find out how they did it!  I have learned a lot from seeing how they develop the back-stories for their characters, and how they show their character’s strength and weaknesses…and most important…when they reveal them.  I also pay more attention to the rhythm of the piece…how do they keep the plot from dragging and losing my interest.

If I don’t like the book or the story, I still go back and reread it anyway.  Why? Because, I look for how the writer wandered off and went astray.  If their characters were shallow, dull or lacked the ability to make me love or hate them, I sit down and think about what I would do to fix the problems.

Sometimes, I go as far as to redevelop them on paper.  If the plot seemed to drag on, was predictable and boring or totally unbelievable, I again go back and briefly write down some things that I would have done to fix the problem.

Whether I loved the book or yawned through the whole thing, I use the writers successes and failures and learn..learn..learn from them.

So if you find a book that you love…go back and find out why!  If you don’t think the writer captured the reader’s attention, look for the reasons and think about what you would have done differently!  It’s a great exercise in writing.

But, one thing you must do if you ever hope to be successful in your writing is to read…read…read.  And, if you find yourself saying, “I could do better than that” then sit down and prove it.  I’m not recommending you rewrite the book or story (that’s plagiarism and most definitely frowned upon) but I am encouraging you to learn from other writers…both the good and the not so good.

Don’t just read the bestsellers.  Read some of the less successful books or stories and think about how the writer might have done this or added that to make it a better work. You’ll find it’s a great writing exercise and you’ll be able to develop your own plots or characters without falling into the same pitfalls as the unsuccessful writers.

So, when you pick up that  book, read it like a reader to see if it works for you.  Then, read it like a writer to find out why it does…or doesn’t!  But, whatever you do…READ!

Yours In Writing,


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