Why we should all be ‘double dipping’ on assignments

Claire Fisher

With tons of projects to do, research to conduct and papers to finish, the amount of work we have to get done as college students can be a little overwhelming. Over the years, one of the ways I’ve been able to do to make the workload more manageable is to “double dip.”

If you’ve never heard this phrase used outside of the context of sharing fries before, “double dipping” is when you use a topic for a project from one class and use it for a different project in another class. You reuse the sources you found in your research, you use some of the same ideas you had, and you alter and add to the information to fit each of the professors’ guidelines.

In the past, I’ve heard people discuss double dipping in a negative way. It’s seen as a shortcut or the lazy way out. I’ve even heard people say it was unethical. My friend tells me she’s found a way to do assignments for three different classes on the same topic and is worried if that’s an acceptable thing to do.

Not only is “double dipping” an acceptable thing to do, but I believe it will improve your education and help you create worthwhile research and projects. In the past when I’ve started a project in one class and then added to it to fit another professors’ assignment guidelines, I’ve found that I learn more than I could have if I’d done the assignments on two separate topics.

Jeff Chamberlain, director of the Frederick Meijer Honors College, said he would say “double dipping” is only unethical if you use the same project over and over again without adding to it.

“I encourage the development of projects beyond what they started as,” Chamberlain said. “In other words, if something starts as a paper in a class and you want to move further and beyond, then that’s how you actually build depth of knowledge.”

Beyond helping you learn more and use your time valuably in your classes in college, double dipping can be valuable after graduation in the world of scholarly research and knowledge.

Chamberlain said he used the research he had done for his doctoral dissertation as a basis for a book chapter, several articles and a book. He said he didn’t stop researching, but the dissertation helped him build up enough knowledge to move beyond his initial research question and the initial data.

“It does indeed lead to other things, which sometimes will cut off entirely from the original project, but sometimes it might have the rich veins that lead directly from the original,” Chamberlain said. “That’s how an awful lot of people conduct research, that’s how you move beyond and learn deeper. It’s also how you get something that was a seed of an idea up to publishable form.”

In addition to improving the work you’re doing on your project, double dipping can also help you make connections between the material you’re learning in separate classes and help you understand both classes better.

Projects and papers assigned by professors are often meant to help you apply the material you’re learning in the class. By thinking about a topic in the context of two different classes, you’re likely to not only gain new insights into your topic, but also understand the material you’re learning in your classes at a deeper level.

While it might seem like you’re cutting corners and taking the easy way out, you’re actually enhancing your college experience.