Tuesday, November 24, 2009

For Sale

I check my inbox each day for blog comments; they cheer me when they're there. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

But every so often, I'll get a spam comment from a company selling "research papers." I got a couple of those today, so I clicked over, hoping there was a way to do something about it. There may be, but I didn't really look long enough to figure it out because I started seeing basic grammar and punctuation errors in the ad copy. The grammar feels off in the way it does when someone who's pretty good at English as a second language sometimes writes. The basics are there, but just a bit off.

Sadly, students who are most likely to buy a paper from that site are least likely to notice the errors, I bet, or to proofread the paper they buy.

I looked at their pricing, and it seems a little out of reach for a lot of my students, so I wonder who's buying these. (Yes, my students mostly have ipods and such, but those are one-time purchases. If you're doing the research paper purchasing thing, I bet you aren't doing it just once a semester.)

The pricing gets more expensive as the time gets shorter, so for a 24 hour turn around, it's just under $25/page, but for a one week turn around, it's about $15 a page. A 5 page paper, with a week's turn around is about $75.

I'm not in denial that some of my students will plagiarize or buy papers, but I can't see them affording these prices often. (I think most of my students' plagiarism is the quick grab off the web, cut and paste without fixing the font even, with a smaller helping of "hey, my roommate has a paper on that topic from last semester!" thrown in to keep things interesting.)

Who's writing these papers? Seriously, if you think of a page taking half an hour or less with no research, then I can imagine lots of folks being willing to do it. That's $30 an hour at the worst, and if you have the university of Google, then even the "research" isn't going to be that difficult (not like you'd actually have to take out the books; you just list them). But if there were actual research involved, then even $25 a page is a poor way to make much money. Once you have to get up from your computer and actually go to a library, there's no point. So I'm guessing the papers are written somewhere with a lower wage structure than the US. That would fit with the non-SWE feel of the site. There's got to be profit in it and customers, or they wouldn't stay in business, right?


  1. A while back, on an NPR show I can't recall, they interviewed someone who writes and sells these papers. He's in a service that promises the paper will be original and charges a bit more. He said that he outright plagarises the papers, reasining that the person buying the paper is getting what they deserve -- a plagarized paper.

  2. Anonymous8:20 AM

    SEK discussed this a while back, and one of his commenters posted a link to a site where writers of these essays hang out. It's on this thread:

  3. Heh--"University of Google."

    I hope the grammar in these doesn't improve. Anything that makes them less easy to spot would be a bad thing.

  4. undine: usually the way I spot plagiarism is when a student with bad grammar suddenly starts writing like a pro. I'm not sure I'd notice if the grammar were bad. Hmm...

    As for the prices... There are plenty of rich kids who get an allowance from their folks. That 75 dollars might mean they're drinking Coors Light on the weekend instead of Cosmos, but it's all good, right? At my school there are a lot of students driving ridiculously pricey cars -- one of them has a Hummer. Ye gads. (I know that's not typical of college students, but even if 10% of all college students had that kind of money, there would still be a good market for bought papers.)

  5. I particularly don't know why students buy papers when they can trade them. There are several sites where if you upload two of your own papers, you have free access to the entire database of papers.

  6. Anonymous10:50 AM

    Which sites are those? I haven't seen those yet...

    I usually begin the term by showing students all the websites in class, and that I know all about them. That pretty much cuts down on all but the most desperate cases of paper buying (but cutting and pasting, not so much).

  7. @annieem: Let me see if I can find them. I haven't checked them out in a while.

  8. Here's a good look inside from the Chronicle:


  9. Back when I was in grad school, the student newspaper did a story on the services (pre-net). Two professors were asked to grade a paper that had been requested as a "B" paper, and both gave it a C.

    You do get what you pay for!

  10. there is a thread on bitch ph.d. that touches on the cheating people, and a comment or 2 about their sources. http://bitchphd.blogspot.com/2009/11/this-isnt-post-about-my-thanksgiving.html

  11. My 'favourite' example of plagiarism was the day I was reading through a student's paper and came to a passage that I thought I'd read before. Then I realized that I hadn't simply read it, I'd written it! Was I supposed to be flattered, do you think?

    Where grammar is concerned, one of our favourite time-wasting occupations as an English Language Department was correcting the grammar mistakes in the documents on the subject of grammar teaching that were sent to us by the Department of Education. Great therapy.