A professional paper writer on the business of plaigarism
Jack has never attended a university, but he’s written more college level papers than most that have. “I delete most of my papers shortly after my client turns them in, so it’s hard to say. But if not a hundred, then just shy of it,” he tells me over beers in a local Phoenix-area bar on a slow Tuesday night. “And,” he proudly notes, “I can tell you that in the past six months, I haven’t gotten anybody less than a B.”
Jack (not his real name) is a self-employed plagiarist. He started doing homework for classmates in high school, and continued to write papers for classmates as they graduated and began college. Although he is naturally curious and has a penchant for writing, he never attended a university because of his financial situation. But that doesn’t stop him from doing schoolwork: “My family can’t afford to send me to school. I can’t make use of my skills [at a university himself], but I can use them now to make some money to stay on my feet.” It is proving profitable- Jack discreetly delivers his clients completely original papers for an average of $150. If you’re in a rush, he’ll belt out the first ten pages of a paper for a flat rate of $200 in two days. “I won’t take anything less than $100 per paper,” he adds, “and the most I’ve made from a single assignment was $180 for a rough draft, plus $350 for the final paper. But people are willing to pay.”
It’s not uncommon to find a friend or classmate that’s willing to let you copy their homework or allow an occasion glance at their Scantron sheet during the midterm. But if you can’t, don’t worry- there are professional services that will take care of your schoolwork for a price. A quick Google of “paper writing services” or terms like it provides pages of companies that can belt out a completely independently researched term paper on any subject.
And these companies ARE professional. You can order a paper in either US or UK style English, and can receive your order in up to 8 hours (I found a paper writer for one of these companies stationed in the Philippines to help last minute customers wake up to a term paper), and even come complete with social media marketing campaigns.
Services in this well-established market have competitive pricing structures. Most charge by the page, and adjust the price based on how soon you need the paper. Some price based on academic level. For example, with one company, if you need a high school level paper written and delivered within 24 hours, it will cost you just under $30 per page. The same company will write PhD-level work for $44 per page. The plagiarism doesn’t stop once you graduate and enter the professional world either- many companies even offer to write “business” papers for those who want some extras help in doing their job. The same bunch of slackers that cheated their way through college doesn’t have to stop once they get into the “real world.”
The legality of this industry may seem questionable, but it is perfectly legal. These services market themselves as providing research for its customers, which, if cited correctly, is just another resource to help a student understand the topic material. They websites usually claim that once the paper is in the student’s hands, they are free to do whatever they choose with it, freeing them from all responsibility if it is used incorrectly. And, frankly, if you are just a faceless person on the internet, it’s not like YOU can be kicked out of school for it.
Although these services are technically legal, that doesn’t mean anyone wanted to talk to me about it when I reached out to a number of them to ask about their trade. In all fairness, perhaps “time is money” and they didn’t have time to speak with me (one of the companies that actually responded to my inquiries said that it would only answer them if I bought them in the form of an essay…. I didn’t take them up on their offer).
It’s a common theme on these companies’ websites to see claims of an academic environment that necessitates paper writing services. The argument is that because there are so many different classes and material to cover in such a short amount of time, a student needs help with “research,” especially in classes that aren’t pertinent to your chosen field of study. Many recent graduates, current students, and even young children have this notion that obtaining a college diploma is absolutely necessary in order to succeed in life. We know about how competitive college is: You need the grades to get the internship to get the job in order to pay back your loans and eventually get a return on your investment (at least in an economic sense). But do you really need someone to do your work for you after you join our seemingly mandatory higher education system?
I wanted to know more about how this environment could lead to a rise in cheating, so I gave a call to Dr. Audrey Beardsley, an associate professor at Arizona State University who also hosts an “Inside the Actor’s Studio”-esque webshow titled “Inside the Academy,” in which she interviews the biggest contributors to education research. Her research interests focus on K-12 education, but she gave me some insight into the culture and history of our high pressure education system. “It’s generally agreed that ever since the launch of Sputnik back in 1957… was the first time the federal government engaged in state-level policy about holding states accountable including all Pre-K to 20,” she states. “There was a real fear that [America] was at a real risk of losing our global superiority because Russia beat us to space.” Ten years later, the Elementary and Secondary education Act was passed, which was the first legislation that stated “the federal government has the right to mandate policies and withhold funding if states don’t meet these policies.”
In order to figure out if schools were meeting these standards, there was an emphasis on accurately testing our nation’s students. A few years down the road, the US has a jumble of different state testing schemes, students taught the test rather than the material, and of course, downright cheating by educators.
Most of these policies impacted K-12 education and made a student used to the high pressure environment when they come out of high school. However, when they enter university, the price of failure is much more personal- failing a class doesn’t reflect poorly on their school, it reflects poorly on themselves. Although Dr. Beardsley couldn’t speak to specifics on trends in the higher education environment, she brought up the concept of Campbell’s Law. In her words: “The higher the stake [in a social situation], the higher the incentive to game the system to reach the positive rewards, or to negate the negate [consequences].”
Campbell’s Law proves common sense. People have been cheating for hundreds of years, and there’s a certain point when an individual is willing to risk getting caught in order to enjoy the benefits of succeeding. In the case of paying for a paper on the internet, risk is very low, and the reward is high. Of course, some people are just lazy. From his unique vantage point, Jack makes some pretty cynical generalizations about society as a whole: “People take the path of least resistance. [If you can afford it], you can pay anyone to do anything. You pay someone to do your taxes. You can even pay someone to go to the grocery store for you.”
Perhaps the reason the plagiarism industry exists doesn’t rest in the field of sociology, but in basic economics. Cheating in this sense is an exercise in efficiently allocating finite resources, responding to incentives, and maximizing utility:
When you are in the extremely competitive field of pre-med, why would you waste your time on a humanities general education requirement that doesn’t interest you? Any time you spend reading Tolstoy is taken away from your Organic Chemistry textbook. Whether it’s moral or not, it’s hard to argue with the motive behind the cheating when an F can haunt you throughout your academic career.
Or, in a world where the value placed on GPA means everything, why risk getting a B when you can pay an expert in the subject to get you an A? The incentives of paying someone to do your work for you are great when you consider how important your transcript is while trying to land your first job or get into professional school.
Finally, your personal education can be approached from a business perspective. Basic economics includes a combination of minimizing input costs and maximizing output, then keeping what’s left over as profit. The costs of production are time and energy, and if you play by the rules, you have to expend a good amount of both to come up with a finished product. When you “outsource” you work to someone else, you reduce input costs and profit more. You see, by cheating in Intro to Feminist Philosophy, you’re actually getting real life practice in Business Administration 101.
Luckily, there are still people that enjoy education and look forward to the hard work it takes to put together an academic paper. As our conversation winds down along with our third pint, Jack maintains his passion of learning and a sense of satisfaction with his work-“I’ll be a little more intelligent when I’m finished, and I’ll be a few hundred bucks richer.” Unfortunately, his customers can’t say the same.