Essay Writing Services

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A few minutes ago I was searching for details of a particular experiment and google came up with a list of companies offering essay writing services. I had a quick glance at one of them and they seemed to offer a whole range of services going from writing up high school projects to writing up works for doctorates. I'm all for students getting advice but my first impression about these companies is that the service they provide is best described as a service for cheating. If I'm right about that I find it very annoying.
 

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  • #2
ISamson
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Can you post any links in particular?
 
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<Moderator's note: link removed>
 
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  • #4
ISamson
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Do you think these sites are legal? I really doubt that, since it conflicts with the education standards and protocol, probably.
How are such pages not blocked or deleted by the government?
 
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ZapperZ
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A few minutes ago I was searching for details of a particular experiment and google came up with a list of companies offering essay writing services. I had a quick glance at one of them and they seemed to offer a whole range of services going from writing up high school projects to writing up works for doctorates. I'm all for students getting advice but my first impression about these companies is that the service they provide is best described as a service for cheating. If I'm right about that I find it very annoying.
This is why many schools subscribe to services that offer instructors the ability to check essay submissions for plagiarism and also cheating such as this. This problem is more of an issue in the humanities subject areas, where term papers are often part of the course. It is less prevalent or an issue in the sciences, especially when most of the grades are based on performance in in-class exams or tests.

But yes, the technology is there to check for such a thing.

Zz.
 
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  • #7
symbolipoint
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Legal or ethical? Are these the same thing or not? Certainly, essay-writing services are unethical. I have seen some such services advertised on, ... I will not say. Sometimes when someone responds to an advertisement for a person wanting some help in some subject, the person will or may ask if you would do their homework or test for him. Competency testing is the right way for a teacher/tutor/instructor/professor to go.
 
  • #8
Dr. Courtney
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As a teacher, I work closely enough with students and have enough informal writing assignments that I get to be pretty good at recognizing each student's voice: vocabulary choices, sentence structures, writing styles. Further, when there are formal writing assignments in my classes, I assign two earlier stages where drafts are due prior to the final completed paper. It's simple enough to compare three drafts (first, second, and final that are turned in at different points in time) to confirm that the orderly development makes sense for the student in question. Finally, the required mastery of technical content and inclusion of data and figures and quantitative assessments tends to eliminate the possibility of outsourcing to essay mills.

I'm not saying it would be impossible for a student to pass off an essay mill product as their own work with the above approach, but if a professor is paying attention, it would be exceedingly unlikely. It is more likely that a student might pass off work outsourced to another student, perhaps an upperclassman who has already completed the same course and mastered the material. If all three drafts are outsourced to the same student and show an orderly progression and eventual mastery of the technical content, then catching it would come down to recognizing variations between the submitted paper and the student's other work, especially if the work is truly original for the specific assignment. Fortunately, students who give into the urge to cheat also have a very big dose of lazy and careless. If they were truly diligent and paid sufficient attention to detail to fool the approach outlined above, they probably would not have to cheat in the first place.
 
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  • #9
Mister T
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Fortunately, students who give into the urge to cheat also have a very big dose of lazy and careless.
This is the reason I use a variety of assessment instruments to evaluate a student. Students who cut corners by cheating, or by just getting too much help, on homework assignments, will not do well on tests. In fact, their test scores will be lower because by not expending the effort needed to do the homework they fail to learn stuff they otherwise might have. It's important to have a grading scheme that provides sufficient weight to homework assignments to provide the incentive for students to complete them, but not enough weight for students to pass the course by getting high homework scores accompanied by low test scores.

If they were truly diligent and paid sufficient attention to detail to fool the approach outlined above, they probably would not have to cheat in the first place.
And therein lies the rub. It's always obvious when homework quality reflects understanding and test scores reflect failed understanding of the very same subject matter.

After a couple of decades of not requiring my students to write essays, I have started again. Students submit their essays online. The essay requires them to summarize three main points from that day's reading assignment, or if they failed to understand one or more of their three points to instead explain what they found confusing about it. The assignments are due one hour before class begins. I have time to look at them before class starts so I can use what I see to help me fine tune that day's lesson.
 
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  • #10
symbolipoint
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Mister T, neat idea that your students must write essays for the purpose you describe. It makes them study and for them to point to what they understood and what they did not understand; but "submit their essays online"? Really? I would not want any such arrangement. You need to see the actual work, see or have someone see the actual student give it, see that it is done in their genuine hand-writing, all so you know everything is genuine and legitimate. Even BETTER would be to require the students to do this essay in a controlled and supervised manner, IN THE CLASSROOM so teacher or assigned assistant can monitor them.
 
  • #11
ZapperZ
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Mister T, neat idea that your students must write essays for the purpose you describe. It makes them study and for them to point to what they understood and what they did not understand; but "submit their essays online"? Really? I would not want any such arrangement. You need to see the actual work, see or have someone see the actual student give it, see that it is done in their genuine hand-writing, all so you know everything is genuine and legitimate. Even BETTER would be to require the students to do this essay in a controlled and supervised manner, IN THE CLASSROOM so teacher or assigned assistant can monitor them.
You are behind the times.

Practically all universities now use some form of Learning Management Systems (LMS) such as Blackboard or Canvas, etc. A lot of things are now done online, including HW, Exams, quizzes, paper submission, etc. This is especially true for Blended and Online courses.

The advantages of electronic submission are many, and this includes what is relevant here on this thread, which is a way to check for plagiarism and duplicate work. In my class, "essays" are not an important part of the course, if any. Any prose that they have to write is often part of an exam or part of their lab reports, which again goes online and double-checked for duplicates not only with other students, but also against a database of previous lab reports.

Besides, paper submission is so previous century!

Zz.
 
  • #12
symbolipoint
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ZapperZ,
Maybe you're right. I am behind the current times. I still sense the risk of students utilizing some online or otherwise essay-writing service if the needed essay is not written during controlled testing-like, traditional conditions. I really believe more in human leadership than in using technology in its stead.
 
  • #13
Mister T
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Mister T, neat idea that your students must write essays for the purpose you describe.
Like all good ideas in education, it's stolen from someone else. :smile:

It makes them study and for them to point to what they understood and what they did not understand; but "submit their essays online"? Really? I would not want any such arrangement. You need to see the actual work, see or have someone see the actual student give it, see that it is done in their genuine hand-writing, all so you know everything is genuine and legitimate.
Huhh? How would it help to see that?

Even BETTER would be to require the students to do this essay in a controlled and supervised manner, IN THE CLASSROOM so teacher or assigned assistant can monitor them.
Use valuable classroom time for that?!

Plus, you have the headache of collecting all those papers and then handing them back out. With a computer I can look back at every previous essay they wrote, see the responses I wrote, and note if they are heeding or ignoring my advice, and grade accordingly. Plus, how would I be able to fold your scheme into the other elements of my scheme? I need to see, before I teach each lesson, what they wrote when they were preparing to participate in that lesson. There just isn't time to accomplish that using anything other than the nearly instantaneous communication afforded by electronics.

Perhaps when paper was new there were folks wanting students to use chisels? :wink:
 
  • #14
ZapperZ
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ZapperZ,
Maybe you're right. I am behind the current times. I still sense the risk of students utilizing some online or otherwise essay-writing service if the needed essay is not written during controlled testing-like, traditional conditions. I really believe more in human leadership than in using technology in its stead.
Then there's nothing I can do to convince you that these services that do the checking against such things are very good.

Zz.
 
  • #15
Mister T
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ZapperZ,
Maybe you're right. I am behind the current times. I still sense the risk of students utilizing some online or otherwise essay-writing service if the needed essay is not written during controlled testing-like, traditional conditions.
Right. Like you're going to find someone to write an essay explaining Pages 107 through 125 of the sixth edition of Randy Knight's textbook, Physics for Scientists and Engineers. And repeat that for a different set of pages. Twice a week. For 14 weeks.

I really believe more in human leadership than in using technology in its stead.
How do you feel about using technology to promote human leadership in ways that can never be done without that technology?
 
  • #16
symbolipoint
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Mister T responded:
Plus, you have the headache of collecting all those papers and then handing them back out. With a computer I can look back at every previous essay they wrote, see the responses I wrote, and note if they are heeding or ignoring my advice, and grade accordingly. Plus, how would I be able to fold your scheme into the other elements of my scheme? I need to see, before I teach each lesson, what they wrote when they were preparing to participate in that lesson. There just isn't time to accomplish that using anything other than the nearly instantaneous communication afforded by electronics.
You would do the way it used to be done before so much computerization and the internet. Essays were and will often still be good ways to assess students, but so much technology about handling them still not necessary. This seems more of a modern style than anything else.
 
  • #17
ZapperZ
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Mister T responded:

You would do the way it used to be done before so much computerization and the internet. Essays were and will often still be good ways to assess students, but so much technology about handling them still not necessary. This seems more of a modern style than anything else.
What exactly was it done before "... so much computerization..."?

I did my undergrad in the early 80's. We usually had the whole semester to do our term papers, type them out, and then hand them in by the due date. How will doing it like this NOW be any better than submitting it electronically online? You expect such term papers to be completed IN CLASS?

You simply can't put blinders on and pretend that things are the way they were. No matter how much you wish it, things ARE different now. As instructors, we need the tools to prevent such outright cheating and copying. I had to deal MORE with students cutting-and-pasting stuff they got off the web than from these paper mills. Not that many students are willing to pay for something that they can easily hijack off something they find for free online.

This is why the tools that I have at my disposal in checking such type of plagiarism are more useful and effective. And besides, you and all of the students here need to realize that we are NOT as DUMB and clueless as you think we are about student cheating. I can spot someone cheating in my class from 5 miles away at the age of 5! If you ask most instructors who care enough, they will tell you that they can spot such a thing easily, especially after the experience of teaching for several years. We have seen practically every trick in the book!

Zz.
 
  • #18
Mister T
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You would do the way it used to be done before so much computerization and the internet. Essays were and will often still be good ways to assess students, but so much technology about handling them still not necessary. This seems more of a modern style than anything else.
I don't understand how what you wrote is a response to the issues raised in the passage you quoted.
 
  • #19
symbolipoint
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I don't understand how what you wrote is a response to the issues raised in the passage you quoted.
It is a drift about the topic. Started as essay writing services, and my point is possible anachronism , from having experienced education before "submitting essays online".

Briefly being a student only a very few years ago, I also wrote a lengthy, not-quite-term paper for an intermediate level course. No such "submit your report online" condition was made, nor requested, nor expected, nor required. We turned our report in, for real, the old-fashioned way. In fact, NONE of our assignments were given ANY arrangement for submitting the work online.
 
  • #20
ZapperZ
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It is a drift about the topic. Started as essay writing services, and my point is possible anachronism , from having experienced education before "submitting essays online".

Briefly being a student only a very few years ago, I also wrote a lengthy, not-quite-term paper for an intermediate level course. No such "submit your report online" condition was made, nor requested, nor expected, nor required. We turned our report in, for real, the old-fashioned way. In fact, NONE of our assignments were given ANY arrangement for submitting the work online.
Then your school was still in the dark ages of education technology.

Zz.
 
  • #21
Mister T
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being a student only a very few years ago, I also wrote a lengthy, not-quite-term paper for an intermediate level course. No such "submit your report online" condition was made, nor requested, nor expected, nor required.
Are you recommending that instead of doing it the way I described, for the reasons I explained, I do it the way it was done when you were a student because that's the way it was done when you were a student?
 
  • #22
symbolipoint
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Are you recommending that instead of doing it the way I described, for the reasons I explained, I do it the way it was done when you were a student because that's the way it was done when you were a student?
I am recommending it, but more out of tradition than just having been my experience. On the other hand, too much technology is getting in the way of so much, everywhere, even in education. I hope I and others will still know how to write an essay, even in the absence of internet or word-processing programs.
 
  • #23
ZapperZ
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I am recommending it, but more out of tradition than just having been my experience. On the other hand, too much technology is getting in the way of so much, everywhere, even in education. I hope I and others will still know how to write an essay, even in the absence of internet or word-processing programs.
1. Doing something just because it is a "tradition" to do it that way is an extremely flimsy excuse. You have not produce any convincing argument on why doing it that way is BETTER under our present situation. In fact, writing it on paper and then submitting it makes it even MORE DIFFICULT for an instructor to see if that student have copied from another source. So I do not see as being better. I see it as being WORSE.

2. So where is the cut-off point for "too much technology", and who gets to decide? Saying that there's too much technology is really a meaningless statement because there is no clear definition on what that is. Would you rather go back to writing on papyrus?

3. There is no evidence that not being able to write essays or proper prose is due to the presence of the internet or word-processing programs. In fact, in my case, I have written A LOT more stuff on a lot more topics due to my access to the internet (since way back in 1987 on Usenet), and my life was made so much easier in writing papers, articles, etc due to a word processor. Who here missed using a rickety typewriter, having to use white outs to correct mistakes, and having to retype whole pages because you decided to make changes to what you wrote? Anyone?

It is unfortunate that you have derailed the original topic of this thread to expose your outdated view of educational technology.

Zz.
 
  • #24
berkeman
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Thread closed for a bit...

Thread will remain closed. Thanks for the interesting discussion on essay services and how educators can tell if their students are trying to cheat.
 
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