Paper Melee

Claim:   A professor notoriously tough on grading term papers, rarely giving out any grade higher than a "D", finally rewards one student's effort with a "B-". The student hangs on to this prized paper and sells it to the highest bidder at the end of the term; the buyer submits it to the same professor during the next term and receives a "B". The next school year, another student submits the same paper to the same instructor and receives a "B+". Finally, yet another student submits the paper for a fourth time and receives an "A"; the grade is accompanied by a written comment from the professor: "I've read this paper four times now, and I like it better each time."


Origins:   This is one of several similar legends
involving students who try to slip one over on instructors by submitting someone else's papers (such as The Old Man and the 'C' and Moby Nicked) but are caught when the instructors recognize the works. Given that the instructors in these legends always good-naturedly hand out passing grades to students who are clearly violating university rules against cheating, these tales might be considered more wish fulfillment fantasies (something along the lines of "kind-hearted professor remembers how difficult college was for him and takes pity") than cautionary tales warning against the perils of plagiarism.

Sightings:   In a 1987 episode of the Canadian television series Degrassi Junior High (episode titled "The Experiment"), Yick tries to improve his grades by turning in old term papers written by Arthur's sister, Stephanie Kaye. He's given higher grades than Stephanie received for the same papers but is eventually exposed for submitting someone else's work.

Last updated:   28 June 2011


    Bronner, Simon J.   Piled Higher and Deeper.
    Little Rock: August House, 1990.   ISBN 0-87483-154-7   (pp. 39-40).

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   Curses! Broiled Again!
    New York: W. W. Norton, 1989.   ISBN 0-393-30711-5   (pp. 286-287).

Also told in:

    The Big Book of Urban Legends.
    New York: Paradox Press, 1994.   ISBN 1-56389-165-4   (p. 206).