The story behind those who write papers purchased online

Cheating is common in schools and the opportunities to purchase papers online seems to be on the rise. The Chronicle of Higher Education features a testimonial from a “shadow scholar” who tells his story of writing dozens of papers and theses:

You’ve never heard of me, but there’s a good chance that you’ve read some of my work. I’m a hired gun, a doctor of everything, an academic mercenary. My customers are your students. I promise you that. Somebody in your classroom uses a service that you can’t detect, that you can’t defend against, that you may not even know exists.

I work at an online company that generates tens of thousands of dollars a month by creating original essays based on specific instructions provided by cheating students. I’ve worked there full time since 2004. On any day of the academic year, I am working on upward of 20 assignments.

In the midst of this great recession, business is booming…

Of course, I know you are aware that cheating occurs. But you have no idea how deeply this kind of cheating penetrates the academic system, much less how to stop it. Last summer The New York Times reported that 61 percent of undergraduates have admitted to some form of cheating on assignments and exams. Yet there is little discussion about custom papers and how they differ from more-detectable forms of plagiarism, or about why students cheat in the first place.

Sounds like we need some more research and figures about how often this particular type of cheating occurs.

There are some interesting thoughts in the comments about who is responsible for all of this and what professors can do about it. The “shadow scholar” suggests that certain segments of the college population are let down by the system and faculty must be burying their heads in the sand when a student can’t express themselves coherently in class and then comes up with an excellent paper. Some of the solutions presented in the comments: get to know your student’s writing very well so you can spot the gaps between their in-class writing and their suddenly strong papers; have students go through a number of drafts that theoretically makes it more difficult to purchase a paper (though “shadow scholar” gives some examples of writing and then revising papers); emphasize writing in schools so students aren’t put in this position where they can’t write.