Addressing “Contract Cheating”: A Close Look at Essay Mills
These days we can see the migration from copy-and-paste internet plagiarism to cash-for-drafts “essay mills” or “paper banks”. These are websites where a student can order any type of academic writing assignment and then submit it as their own.
In fact, the idea behind the mills is older than the Internet. It is known about “fraternity files” that were kept in fraternity houses in the mid-nineteenth century. These were the collections of academic papers that had been written by students in previous years. Your not-so-ancient ancestors and those old fogeys who forbid you to plagiarize did it themselves back in the 19th century.
The first essay banks encouraged the commercialization of academic ghostwriting. In the 1950s, students could come across advertisements that were moving around college campuses. They promoted ghostwritten work for term papers, theses, and dissertations. These services remained popular in the 1960s and 1970s.
The Global Scale of Essay Mill Business
The rise of online custom writing business was caused by technology development and online payment systems. It’s hard to say for sure how many essay writing companies are in the operation today. Different sources posit different figures, from one to several hundred services. They are spread all over the world. The orders come from the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, and other English speaking countries.
According to Telegraph, “professional essay writing industry” is worth over £100m. Tens of thousands of UK students pay for custom-made papers every year. The client database doesn’t consist mainly of international students searching for someone to provide a well-written work in proper English. Native speakers increasingly use paper mills, too. One of the largest essay companies reports that the number of UK customers has increased by a fifth over the last two years.
Companies operate various pricing spectrums. They charge their clients £138 at seven days’ deadline. The cost escalates even further for urgent orders and difficult topics. An average pay for a Ph.D. dissertation starts at £1,700. If a client needs it in two weeks, they will have to pay a whopping £36,950.
While the prices are extremely high, it only takes a few clicks to discover a wide range of companies offering to write academic papers for students. They justify the expensiveness by the quality of work and guarantees. Site in the following link: https://essaypro.com/ca/essay-writer-service.html is one of the most popular writing services, promises:
- On time delivery
- Fast turnaround time
- Experienced writers to complete the orders
- Plagiarism-free content
- Native English writers
- Customer-writer communication
- A wide scope of subject areas they cover
According to Daniel Dennehy, chief executive of UK Essays, custom written services “are catering for a demand which is there”. He says that the provided essays are “model answers“. Students should merely draw on them instead of submitting.
Mr. Dennehy doesn’t see any difference between the practice of ordering model papers and home-tutoring. He thinks that a ban on essay companies will deprive students of extra support and make their lives even more difficult. “We simply help students who need additional guidance by connecting them with qualified academics,” – he says.
In fact, they hire students, graduates, and professional writers. Some companies even claim to have academics in their staff. Students get sufficient model answers from them and “learn structuring, referencing and sourcing”.
The Role of Universities
For their part, universities criticize essay mills for devaluing the process of learning and qualification that reflects a level of academic ability. Simply put, they help students cheat. And detecting the cases of “contract cheating” is a tough task. The products are often custom-made which means that the essays are tailored specifically to customer’s requirements. The works are checked by the software used in institutions (like Turnitin). Thus, students cannot be caught on plagiarizing.
The production of papers is usually run from websites which owners are located outside of the country. The staff mainly consists of freelancers. What makes things even more challenging to academics is that such activities are not recognized as illegal.
Susan Blum, a professor of anthology at the University of Notre Dame and an author of the book on plagiarizing in college, says that the reason why students seek assistance from essay mills is a disconnect between educators and learners. She says: “For a lot of students, a lot of work that we (faculty) assign is somewhat meaningless. They don’t see it as an opportunity to practice using evidence, or deepen understanding … they tend to, in many cases, to see the assignments as simply things to get through.”
Youth treat college as an obstacle to be coped with in chase of that so much needed document: a diploma. This attitude is easy to explain. An academic degree is a must for many careers. Blum says that college starts to resemble a financial activity where young people “pay the money” and “get the credential.” This consumable attitude makes buying essays seem less like academic integrity offence.
Students face penalties for academic misconduct. The consequences of submitting a purchased papers range from failing grades to expulsion. Still, these don’t stop learners from using essay writing services.
Alicia, a university student studying law, says: “When I have a dilemma – not to hand in a paper at all because of procrastination, or buy it at essay writing website and avoid a bad grade, I choose the latter.”
The Bottom Line
Of course, actions should be taken. Cheating is a serious offence. But before lamenting a situation in which students choose to waste their time and money by plagiarizing rather than actually learning, it is necessary to ask ourselves how they come to that. The £50,000 tuition fees and high academic pressure might be the first things to blame.