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The dangerous world of the essay writing company: or a comedy of errors’

May 20, 2013

It’s that time of year again, where academics the world over seem to be treading water, or drowning, in marking undergraduate exam scripts, essays, and dissertations. It is one of the more soul-destroying parts of the job, because although in reality it is a period lasting just a few weeks, it feels like several months. For me personally, it is a time of constant pressure. Pressure to make progress on the piles around the office. Pressure to do justice to the students, to make the right call in judging work that could colour their future. Pressure to finish it so that I can get to things I’m having to neglect. Pressure that comes from wondering if those research ideas that were starting to come together in April will make any sense in June.  But on the face of it, this pressure is generally tolerable. There is always light at the end of the tunnel. This post is about the other side of this pressure, and those that seek to profit from those failing to cope with assessment deadlines. Just put “essay writing” into a search engine, and you’ll find hundreds of companies willing to sell a custom-written essay to students at all levels.

The marking season always brings this issue to the fore, for reasons obvious but also for me reasons historical. Some years ago, a PhD student at Aberystwyth, now known as Dr Simon Payne, was shocked to discover that one such essay writing company had a stand at the Aber rugby 7s tournament. He bought a flyer to my office, and at that point I started to investigate. The results were shocking. The company in question can be found here. If you’re an academic like me, their about us page will make your blood boil. More so than the obvious typo in my title (stand down, you’re not marking now). At current rates, a next day publishable PhD thesis will set you back more than £18,000. Whilst this is ridiculous for a whole host of reasons (unless you’re the son of a dictator), the more troubling part of their business is the services they offer to undergraduate students. A 3000 word essay will cost about £300-£400. Not the sort of money most students have to spend on this sort of thing, but this is the top end of the market. There are many cheaper options out there.

It’s not actually the money, it’s the principle of the thing. This company purports to be a support service, and would have you believe that student support at UK universities is so poor that their help is needed. Then there is the thorny issue of whether or not it is cheating. Luckily, they address this concern head on. If you buy any of those arguments, university is not for you. These companies are the antithesis of everything we work for, and everything we aim to instill in our students. All universities have mechanisms in place to deal with all of the reasons they give for using their service on the cheating page.  Moreover why should privacy be an issue if the service is above board? I don’t think this line of business is legitimate. They almost certainly disagree.

Legitimacy is a big issue for these companies, and they claim to have hundreds of top-class academics working for them (I doubt that). One hilarious example of of this claim was provided by a company who made the mistake of following me on Twitter.  I immediately told them exactly what I thought of them (see above), and then dived down the rabbit hole to see what they were about. To my surprise they had an “our team” page with Drs and Profs identified by picture and first name (only). That looked weird, so I guessed those people weren’t who they said they were, and thanks to some quick work from Stuart Miller the true identities of these academics was established within 20 minutes. All were big-hitting academics from across the world, and we emailed them all that evening. All decided to contact their legal people, and the next morning the pictures had all been replaced with stock images. The same images, were also used by a completely different site. That site also changed their images from the academics to the stock photos without us ever contacting that site. The fact that the same group is running several sites it therefore obvious. Although not certain, I’d be surprised if you ever got an essay back from these companies if you coughed up their fee. I have no intention of testing that hypothesis though.

This comedy of eros (don’t!) stops being funny when you think about the implications for education. Extended writing is an essential academic skill. Doing it is not easy even in your first language, and the only way of getting good at it is to learn the hard way. Paying for it, either through stress, convincing yourself it’s a revision aid, or brazenly cheating might get you through your studies, but it won’t prepare you for postgraduate employment. What if your job requires a business case, a critical analysis of options requiring millions of dollars of company expenditure, or government policy change? You can’t pay an essay writing company then.

More worrying still are the implications for foreign students, who are becoming an increasingly important source of revenue for universities. Some of these students are funded by their governments to study in the UK. This sometimes comes with strings attached. If they fail, for example, they have to pay the money back. For a PhD, this could amount to £60,000 or more. Fail to pay, and they go to prison. Or worse. A colleague of mine told me a tale of two Masters students who failed and were met at their home airport by a group of officials, bundled into a people carrier and were never heard of again, by anyone. These are the students who will likely take the risk with these companies, and with plagiarism detection technology advancing all the time, they will be caught and punished. The companies (if they even deliver) will not face any penality at all, which is why they still exist.

Altogether, I think we as academics have a duty to call these companies out whenever we get the chance. They are morally bankrupt parasites who deserve nothing but contempt.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 22, 2013 11:14 am

    Such a idiotic story with “NO SENSE”. Do you really feel people are looking out for such stuff ?? I would suggest better you stop reviews others and improve your writing skills. Because if people starts your negative marketing Dr Mark Burnley will be a black spot on web in next three days. 😛

  2. October 31, 2013 11:40 am

    Writing a dissertation may be your final step to a long academic career. The process is seldom looked upon with great anticipation and excitement. How do you write a successful dissertation? A better question to ask is how to be successful in writing your dissertation. The first question is directed toward content while the second is directed toward the process. You will be spending a lot of time with your topic so that should be your starting point. Choose a topic that moves you. And also we can get quality dissertation help from reliable services.

  3. November 1, 2013 9:34 am

    Writing an essay is very hard task for students. Buy best essays is a better option. Many of online services are available today. So choosing a good company is very difficult. Many of students are cheated from fraud companies. Many of them have no idea for how to select good services. It’s really impressing blog. And I think its help for all students.

  4. November 5, 2013 9:47 am

    Like many students, essay writing fearful task for me. I always write my essays with essay writing service, but finding essay writing cheaters is not a simple task, and I ask suggestions from experts, the key to writing an essay, as my brilliant teacher once told me. It is simple. You don’t need to have every little fact right.

  5. February 10, 2015 8:34 am

    Essay-writing is really a difficult task even for brilliant students. Also, students don’t want to take risk with their grades at any cost. Therefore, they get attracted to online services. From student’s point of view, there’s nothing wrong in taking help from such services. But finding a relevant site which provides uncopied and unique content is really a big task (for example ). However, if they manage to find a good one, they would surely manage to get good grades in their exams.

    • February 10, 2015 6:15 pm

      Services like yours are the antithesis of all forms of education. Also, if the aim of your comment was, in part, to advertise your services, I think you might want to count up your grammatical errors. Rather telling, wouldn’t you say?

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