By Bob Ruff and Carol Costello
Online sites known as paper mills offer students term papers, reports, or essays – for a fee.
Outsourcing is a dirty little word among many Americans. When companies use cheap labor overseas to make products or perform services it often means those jobs are lost in the United States.
Next up on the outsourcing list? Take a deep breath and read on. America is outsourcing its brains.
According to the Center for Academic Integrity, in the last school year nearly a third of the faculty at its 360 college and high school member institutions reported students downloading term papers, reports or essays written by someone else from online sites known as paper mills.
We counted more than 250 sites selling papers online, so CNN'S Carol Costello went online to buy a term paper from one of them. She asked for a "Premium Quality" paper on Jayson Blair, the former reporter fired by the New York Times for making up stories. Three, double-spaced pages with 5 references (the references added to the cost), totaled $80.97.
The company said it would take a few days.
Watch: Students outsource homework
Costello talked to one writer from an Asian country, who wished to remain anonymous. He says, based on his experience, more than 90% of online term paper buying comes from the United States. "There's a huge demand for academic papers in the United States," he told her. "It's unethical, but you know I come from a Third World country. It's good pay. The temptation was really great."
Much of the time it's an English speaking writer from another country who is writing those term papers. DomainTools tracks Internet traffic to Web sites by nation. Essaywriters.net is one of the most established sites soliciting writers to write these papers. DomainTools says most of the visitors to essaywriters.net are non-Americans.
It breaks down this way:
- Pakistan 28.8%
- India 27.3%
- USA 20.9%
- Philippines 6.5%
- Ukraine 4.2%
- Indonesia 1.8%
While it may seem lucrative for a writer looking for some work, several writers we talked to said essaywriters.net did not pay them for the work they produced. One blog has become a place for writers to read about and exchange information on companies that sell research papers.
Terese Depoy, an Arizona substitute teacher and writer, says she contacted essaywriters.net to make extra cash by doing freelance writing under her pen name, M.J. Joachim. "The big pitch," says Depoy, "was that they...had really strong professional people that needed your services."
But when Depoy received the writing offers, she says she was appalled that it had nothing to do with corporate writing or research. "They're requesting term papers, they're requesting book reports...there were some that had entire course syllabuses for the semester...I was actually embarrassed!" Depoy, who has a daughter in college, chose not to participate. "What it tells me is, we're really dumbing down America. We're lowering the standard of education."
In a statement to CNN, essaywriters.net said "the original writing services that essaywriters.net and affiliates provide are for reference only and are not to be used without properly citing all assistance material. All customers are informed that it is their responsibility to use the reference material responsibly and never claim it as their own work. We hold our customers and writers the highest ethical and academic standards."
There is software designed to catch counterfeit papers. Turnitin is used widely by schools to catch cheating students. Professors who we spoke with said that while Turnitin is pretty good at catching stock term papers sold online, it's not so good at flagging custom papers that paper mills sell to students.
The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) says it caught 600 students cheating in the past year. Most of the students were either copying tests, using crib notes, helping others on tests, or turning in term papers off the Internet. The university is so concerned with the problem that it created a Academic Integrity Office to deal with it.
Tricia Bertram Gallant, the academic integrity coordinator at UCSD, runs a mandatory seminar for the student cheaters. "It's more important to address it when it happens and educate students about why paper mills aren't a good idea for them to use," she says. "It's not just about not getting caught, but it's about not learning how to write."
The paper Costello ordered about Jayson Blair, the former New York Times reporter, came three days later. We decided to run it by American University Journalism Professor John Watson.
Here's the very first sentence in the term paper that we bought:
"The media acting as the eyes of the society ought to practice its role with the highest journalistic ethics possible; feeding the society with information of unquestionable source to perpetuate the credibility and the moral obligation bestowed to it."
Professor Watson's assessment: "The first sentence does not express a coherent thought. Indeed, the entire essay does not show college-level organization or coherency."
The professor's grade for the paper? F (fail)
It may be easier but is it really better to be outsourcing our brains to unknown writers on the Internet?
Originally posted September 4, 2009.
The challenges of academic writing
Contrary to what you may have read in the media, not all essay writing companies are out to exploit the idleness of that small minority of students who would prefer to pay others to do their work for them. At Essay Writing Services UK, we are motivated by a deep-seated commitment to the fundamental values of academic integrity, as exemplified by the world’s preeminent universities.
The fact is that many students find writing essays and dissertations to be the most challenging aspect of their university career. This itself should come as no surprise. Academic writing and essay-structuring skills do not come easily to anyone, and it is by no means uncommon for even seasoned academics to confess their ongoing struggles with the art of setting their ideas down on paper.
What ought to be more surprising, however, is just how little in the way of explicit advice, instruction and guidance is available to students struggling with the many challenges that acquiring the skills of academic writing presents. The fact is that it is exceptionally rare for university faculties or departments to provide any kind of tutoring in the art of academic essay writing. Rather, students are expected to simply pick it up on the fly.
Filling a gap in higher education
Essay Writing Services UK was set up in order to fill this long-recognised gap in the higher-education system. By providing model academic essays, along with subject-specific academic advice and critical feedback, we aim to provide the kind of expert supervision and guidance that universities all too often fail to provide for their students. After all, if you really want to learn how to write in an academic style, to structure an essay or dissertation, to construct a cogent argument, or to tackle a research problem, what better way is there than to be provided with a carefully crafted model or exemplar of the same?
The proper way to use our services
The proper way to use our academic writing services is to order an essay, dissertation or other document which can then be used as a model, exemplar, and unique research tool for crafting your own academic assignments. Drawing upon such a model essay is scarcely different to consulting published academic papers, preprints, books and journals, or essays, dissertations and theses written by previous students. When used in the correct way, making use of a model custom essay is a tried and tested means of dramatically improving your understanding of your subject matter, your ability to structure and write an essay – and thereby, ultimately, your grades.
Abuse of our services
Since our model essays are guaranteed to be written from scratch, we of course understand that a small minority of individuals may abuse the services we provide. Regrettably, this is not something we are able to exercise any control over. However, we trust that the vast majority of clients will use our services honestly and responsibly. In doing so, our clients will learn by example how to go about structuring and writing first-rate academic papers in which they can take pride.
Should anyone submit one of our model answers as their own work, on the other hand, they are indeed cheating – both cheating the system, and cheating themselves out of a unique opportunity to receive expert tutoring in essay writing from a professional academic (something their own university tutors will typically have neither the time nor the inclination to do).
The risks and costs of cheating
University tutors, lecturers and examiners have considerable experience of marking student papers and their suspicions will be aroused if the quality of work a student submits changes dramatically. Any student who submits one of our model essays as their own work therefore runs the risk of being caught out by the university and removed from their degree course. This would mean not only squandering the opportunity of an invaluable education, but may also seriously tarnish their professional reputations and limit their career prospects. Those students who use our model papers as they are intended to be used, on the other hand, will have no such issues. Ultimately, any students who submit work written by someone else are failing themselves, and it is hard to see how it will benefit them in the long run – not least when it comes to taking their university examinations.
If you have further questions about how to use our services, our policy on cheating, or anything else, please refer to our Frequently Asked Questions page here. If you can’t find the answer to your question there, or have a more specific enquiry, don’t hesitate to call one of our friendly customer service representatives on 0203 011 0100.