November 17, 2012

Plagiarism and Essay Mills

Sometimes as I decide what kind of papers to assign to my students, I can’t help but think about their potential to use essay mills.

Essay mills are companies whose sole purpose is to generate essays for high school and college students (in exchange for a fee, of course).  Sure, essay mills claim that the papers are meant just to help the students write their own original papers, but with names such as echeat.com, it’s pretty clear what their real purpose is.

Professors in general are very worried about essay mills and their impact on learning, but not knowing exactly what essay mills are or the quality of their output, it is hard to know how worried we should be. So together with Aline Grüneisen, I decided to check it out.  We ordered a typical college term paper from four different essay mills, and as the topic of the paper we chose…  (surprise!) Cheating.

Here is the description of the task that we gave the four essay mills:

“When and why do people cheat? Consider the social circumstances involved in dishonesty, and provide a thoughtful response to the topic of cheating. Address various forms of cheating (personal, at work, etc.) and how each of these can be rationalized by a social culture of cheating.”

We requested a term paper for a university level social psychology class, 12 pages long, using 15 sources (cited and referenced in a bibliography), APA style, to be completed in the next 2 weeks, which we felt was a pretty basic and conventional request. The essay mills charged us in advance, between $150 to $216 per paper. >>>

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