Essay Buyer Beware

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A few years ago, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a story that would scare the tweed socks off of any professor - the Shadow Scholar who writes custom essays allowing students to graduate with advanced degrees illicitly earned. The Shadow Scholar goes on to comment that HE (or SHE) is getting paid to learn about these topics in order to write these quality essays.

The scariest part of course is that if the writing is good enough, not even Turnitin could detect the cheating because it's a custom, well-written essay....or is it?

Economist Dan Ariely has an interesting article in which he test drives a few essay services and finds less than satisfying results. Consider some of the issues he finds in these essays (for which he paid over $150).

  • Non-grammatical English - as in possibly produced by a non-native speaker of English. You can see a sample quote below
  • Low quality sources in citations
  • Incorrect citation formats
  • May include plagiarized content - the kind detectable by Turnitin.

I don't mean to say that the Shadow Scholar ever produced such shoddy results. But the Shadow Scholar may be starting to charge a much higher fee after this. I also don't mean to say that faculty can breath a sigh of relief. Students are still going to do what they do, and they need to be educated otherwise.

If there is one lesson we should all learn it is this:

There is harmless healing, when healers-cheaters and wizards offer omens, lapels, damage to withdraw, the husband-wife back and stuff. ... But these days fewer people believe in wizards.

—Anonymous (2012)

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