Do Professors Keep Old Papers

Do Professors Keep Old Papers

Have you ever wondered what happens to test papers that professors don’t return? While some professors choose to return graded papers to students for various reasons, what happens to the ones that are not returned? Do they keep them?

Unreturned student papers are handed in to the appropriate faculties, where they are maintained for at least a year after which they may be disposed of.

Graded test papers or assignments may be returned to students or retained by the instructor at their discretion. Keep in mind that students are responsible for the retention of exams and/or assignments when they’re returned to them.

That said, examination papers in college are usually not returned to students. In this case, the professor hands these papers to the faculty for safekeeping, should a need for remarking arise.

Depending on the policies of the institution, old papers may be discarded after a year or more of safekeeping.

Schools that leverage digital examinations can keep examination papers indefinitely. Most of these scripts go through plagiarism checkers like Turnitin that store student submissions indefinitely.

What Professors Do With Old Papers

Professors have the freedom to choose what to do with students’ test papers. They may either choose to return them to students or submit them to their respective faculties for safekeeping.

Final examinations, however, are usually exceptions as most institutions recommend that their professors refrain from returning these papers to students.

In this case, old examination papers are submitted to the faculty for safekeeping. This enables students seeking remarking of their scripts to easily obtain access.

The length of time the faculty keeps these papers are dependent on each respective university and its policies. It can range anywhere from a year or 2 semesters to 5 years for non-digital files.

In the case of digital files, faculties can keep examination files indefinitely. Additionally, most plagiarism checkers used by these institutions also store these files indefinitely unless removed by the university.

How Long Do Professors Keep Papers On File

While this depends on each respective educational institution’s policies, old papers can be maintained from one to five years. Digital files on the other hand can be kept indefinitely depending on the school’s policies.

Schools may dispose of these files appropriately after the specified amount of time. Keep in mind that most digital files would also pass through the school’s plagiarism checker which would also indefinitely keep a copy of each submission for comparison checks.

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Can You Re-Use Old Papers

Plagiarism comes in many forms and while resubmitting your old paper may seem harmless, it still falls under self-plagiarism.

This form of plagiarism involves using parts of your already published content in another publication, especially without citation. This form of plagiarism involves:

  • Resubmitting a paper you submitted for an earlier assignment
  • Copying or rewriting parts from your earlier writing
  • Recycling previously collected data
  • Separate publication of various articles describing the same research

The severity of self-plagiarism has been debated in various academic circles but most educational institutions consider this a serious offense that could lead to paper cancellation.

An example is an assignment I graded in my previous school which flagged a student at 96% plagiarism on the Unicheck plagiarism checker which my school uses.

After confronting the student, he explained that he deferred the course the previous year and had submitted that assignment that year.

He decided to resubmit that same assignment when he enrolled in the course again. In such a situation, the system which already had his previous submission flagged the whole content.

Depending on the educational institution, consequences for self-plagiarism can range from paper cancellation to expulsion in extreme cases. Simply seek permission from your instructor appropriately cite your sources to avoid self-plagiarism.

Can Professors Tell If You Reuse A Paper

Most educational institutions leverage some form of premium plagiarism checkers like Turnitin, SafeAssign, and Unicheck. These plagiarism checkers have their own databases of student submissions which are included in similarity checks.

This means any student submissions that pass through these tools are stored in their database to be included in future similarity checks.

If you’ve reused part of a previously submitted paper, premium plagiarism checkers will compare new submissions with previously submitted content to detect similarities and present the results to your professor.

Keep in mind that most educational institutions have policies against self-plagiarism. Students caught in violation of these policies could have their papers canceled.

Why Professors Keep Old Papers

It can be annoying when professors don’t return test scripts to students. After all, the scripts would help us understand where we went wrong and what we did very right.

So, we expect professors to return these test papers to us once they’ve been graded. But while most professors would return test papers and assignments to students, examination papers are kept by the faculty for various reasons including:

Safe Keeping

Students aren’t great at keeping scripts from examinations. They easily lose them or forget them somewhere. This makes it difficult for them to retrieve in the event of an issue.

Old papers that are retained by professors are submitted to the faculty for safekeeping. This means students obtain access to these files whenever needed.

Should a student wish to appeal their grade, the original test files can easily be retrieved from the faculty. This would be difficult in cases where these files are kept with the student as they can easily be lost.

Students should therefore be advised to carefully save exams and assignments that are returned to them, as these would be necessary should a need for an appeal arise.

Dispute Settlement

Grade disputes aren’t uncommon in educational institutions. A professor gives a student a grade in an examination and the student believes they were graded unfairly or deserves a second look-over by the professor or another third party.

This can’t be settled without the student’s examination papers which is why professors choose to keep examination papers. They may return test and assignment papers to students but would refrain from giving back examination papers to students.

The faculty is better equipped to safely keep old test papers for easier retrieval, in the event of any appeal. Students can conveniently request photocopies of these files in the event of a dispute.

Availability Of Questions

Simply knowing your grade may not be enough as it doesn’t help you determine where you went wrong and what you did very well.

But professors have their reasons for not returning old examination papers to students. Sometimes, they retain old examination papers to avoid leaking questions.

Some subjects have a limited pool of questions that can be used to test students. Creating new questions each year can be challenging in such cases.

To prevent students from passing exam questions to their friends, siblings, and juniors, professors may simply retain examination papers.

After all, students always try to find an advantage wherever they can find one. To ensure that students who receive previous questions do not have an edge over their peers, professors simply resort to retaining examination papers.

Professors may return papers to students for subjects with larger question banks for examinations. In this case, different sets of questions from these question banks can be administered to new students.

Akshay Vikhe

I am an aspiring Data Scientist with a huge interest in technology. I like to review courses that are genuine and add real value to student’s careers. Read my story

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