It’s a simple term students type into Google: “Write my college paper for me.” In less than a second, results pop up and students can have a paper or essay written for them by someone halfway around the world for a reasonable rate. Technically it’s called “academic writing,” but, in essence, students are turning in assignments they didn’t create.
The companies providing these services are plentiful and their offering is clear. Essay Shark hides nothing on its website, “No matter what kind of academic paper you need, it is simple and secure to hire an essay writer for a price you can afford at EssayShark. Save more time for yourself.”
The process is all very streamlined. Students simply fill out their “order details,” then writers bid on the project. There’s even an opportunity to speak with potential writers to see if they’re a good fit. Once you’ve selected your writer, you pay the fee, receive your essay, then have the ability to rate the work you received—or grade the work you didn’t do.
Who is actually writing the papers? The answer might surprise you. These aren’t necessarily other students looking to make extra cash; in many cases they’re people across the globe.
According to a recent article in The New York Times, “The essay-for-hire industry has expanded significantly in developing countries with many English speakers, fast internet connections and more college graduates than jobs, especially Kenya, India and Ukraine.”
Often these writers have completed their educations, but are unable to find work, so turn to academic writing as a source of income. The economic disparity between the U.S. and some of these developing countries allows the writers to make a decent living while offering US students papers and essays at a reasonable price, even on a college kid’s budget.
The issue is not a secret, and one that academia is trying to solve. There are technologies and databases to help instructors identify submitted work that was previously written or plagiarized. The issue with these assignments isn’t that they’re not plagiarized, they’re original works, they just don’t belong to the student submitting them.
In an effort to maintain academic integrity, a company called Turnitin has developed software trained to identify papers that may have been purchased by using sentence structure and metadata. Although this technology exists, it isn’t widely used as of yet.
In the meantime, the academic writing industry is thriving. Which begs the question why are college students paying people to do their homework?
According to Open Education Database (OEB), in a survey of 30,000 college students, 60.8% of those polled admitted to cheating. OEB also found, “ In his study of 1,800 college students, Professor Donald McCabe noted that 15% turned in a fake term paper (either from a mill or a website), 84% cheated on written assignments and 52% plagiarized one or more sentences for a paper.”
Students seem to believe cheating is an effective strategy, whether they engage in the practice themselves or not. There also seems to be no real negative impact, as an Ad Council and ETS study confirmed 95% of cheaters don’t get caught.
What seems to have become a common practice for students could be damaging our educational system and ultimately leaving them unprepared as the enter into the workforce.