Contract Cheating?

I’m kicking off my new semester teaching communication ethics with a discussion about an ethical challenge students are familiar with:  Cheating.

A testing center at Penn State uses high-tech surveillance to watch for student cheating.  (Photo:  Jim Lo Scalzo for USN&WR)

When I first taught this class many years ago, I featured a Blog about the University of Central Florida (UCF) cheating scandal, whereby a professor accused students of cheating on the midterm exam.  Since that time, UCF and many other institutions have gone high tech to fight cheating, and the use of online plagiarism detection services (such as Turnitin.com) have become commonplace. 

A not-so-new cheating buzzword caught my attention this year:  “contract cheating.”  I have long been aware of professional services that provide written work for a fee, but I was not aware how much attention this topic has garnered or how much the practice has grown among college students

I agree the companies that provide this service have become more conspicuous, and students may have become more jaded to the seriousness of this offence.  In an NPR news story about students cheating their way through college, I was struck by one student who didn’t consider it “cheating” if she paid someone to write “original” work.

“They don’t plagiarize,” she said, “…they write everything on their own.”

As much as professors would like to think this topic is black-and-white, it is not.  There are many different positions you could take.  Some cast blame on educators and even our parents.  There also are many ethical approaches you could take to explore the reasoning that leads to cheating, including utilitarianism, virtue ethics, even social contract theory and many more. 

The International Center for Academic Integrity sponsors an International Day of Action against contract cheating (coming October 16).

I look forward to engaging this year’s class on the topic and to hearing your views and perspectives.

[Click below to leave a comment.]

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44 Responses to Contract Cheating?

  1. Madison Downs says:

    I had never heard of buying original work or essays from websites or people until I arrived at The University of Tampa my freshman year. This is not something I have done before, but I have definitely heard of it and know of some people who have purchased essays to turn in for their classes. Additionally, I have not heard of many websites that sell original work, but I know people who have bought essays from other students.

    From the NPR.org article, I thought it was intriguing how advanced Turnitin is getting. I didn’t realize that this software is advancing to be able to better analyze ones work. Turnitin can now see when a document was created and can compare it with other work by the student to see if it is truly their work or not. One thing that I think could avoid this issue is how teachers assign essays. For example, my sophomore year, I had to write a long essay for my Writing and Research class. My teacher assigned the essay in sections until we eventually turned in the final draft a few weeks later. Since we wrote the essay in sections and reviewed it many times with the Professor, it truly did have to be our own work. I understand that there is not always this much time to create and review an essay, but this would avoid a student buying an essay from somewhere or someone. I think more encouragement and check ins from the class and professor to complete an assignment would encourage a student to complete their work with integrity. Personally, I don’t agree with using someones original work as your own, but I do understand that some students feel pressure and are overwhelmed with school work sometimes.

  2. Mia Evans says:

    Even though it seems that students are justifying reasons to participate in “contract cheating,” I view it as a parallel to plagiarism, another unethical act. Without writing the paper or doing the work for yourself, you will never learn or improve your skills in this area. Also, since the words themselves are not written by the student, does plagiarism come into question even when a transaction is made?

    Some may see contract cheating as “collaboration” or a way to “eliminate pressures,” but paying someone to do an assignment for him or her will only leave them unprepared for life after college. Heavy workloads and strict deadlines are frequently faced in a professional career, where these services are not available to assist with time management.

    While writing an essay may seem tedious and unnecessary at times, those of us in PR, especially, rely on these writing skills to advance our careers, so the more practice we get, the better we will become.

    Overall, earning a grade based on an essay that someone else wrote brings one’s honesty and integrity into question, even if he or she does not view their actions as “cheating” based on a University policy.

  3. Darienne Bartsh says:

    The idea of buying essays from other students or websites has become such a norm in college student life. Students have become so worried about trying to get the assignment done on time, regardless of the risks and harsh consequences. The point of writing and creating your work is to build skills and learn and it seems students are trying to coast through their courses. Contract cheating falls in the same unethical category as plagiarism.

    Though students downplay the idea of contract cheating because it is not copying work, but having someone simply write the essay, it is still considered unethical. Universities have been trying to decrease the number of contract cheating through technology and other assignments. For example, in theconversation.com’s article “15% of students admit to buying essays. What can universities do about it?”, schools are redesigning their assignments to lower contract cheating numbers. Also, turnitin.com has stepped their game up by increasing its detection services by checking the essay’s writing style and when it was written.

    It is understood that university students become very busy people and deadlines are always coming up faster before they know it. However, it is always best to create your work and avoid consequences that can harm your future.

  4. Carley Appel says:

    Before reading this article, I was unaware that the term “contract cheating” even existed. I was aware that people have paid others to do their work for them, but never knew that it was happening very often.
    It is a very dangerous way of completing your work because although some may say it’s not plagiarizing because it is original work, it is not the student’s original work. A lot of students think that by paying someone else to write their papers, they won’t get caught.
    I have heard a lot of stories of people who have used this method but do not understand why they would. It may seem easier to just have someone else do your work for you, but that way you are not learning the vital information you need to know and that could affect you greatly in the end.

  5. Jaclyn Howard says:

    While I do understand that students our age can get extremely overwhelmed with assignments, working jobs, paying bills, etc., I still don’t believe that it’s ethical to buy an essay or have someone else write it for you. I understand that it’s a quick solution in that moment, but in the long run it’s going to hurt you more than it helps you. I wasn’t even aware that the option of buying essays existed until probably a year ago. Personally, I would never take part in it just because of how severe the consequences can be. Getting expelled from school isn’t worth the risk when writing the essay yourself is something that can be done in a handful of hours.

    It does baffle me that some people our age don’t see it as plagiarism or unethical. If you copy and paste someone else’s written words from the internet into your essay, that is plagiarism, so if the entire essay is someone else’s words, isn’t that even stronger plagiarism? It’s gotten to the point now where ethics need to be better instilled into young people, as well as re-instilled into grown adults. Our society has moved further and further away from the concept of right and wrong, and gray areas are much too vast.

  6. Eric Abruzzi says:

    A college workload presents many challenges to all students. A rigorous schedule and a copious amount of work can create a great deal of stress and in some cases desperation. In today’s technologically advanced society, students are finding new ways to bypass the stress of some assignments, specifically essays by means of contract cheating.

    The student in the NPR story did not view this form of cheating as plagiarism because the work many times is original. Although this may technically be true and essays may evade the software used by websites such as turnitin, it still creates an ethical dilemma for students. By using this service students are cheating themselves on an opportunity to improve writing skills before hitting the working world.

    The Conversation article discussed some alternative services to negate contract cheating. One idea mentioned that I could see becoming more popular for teachers is the use of interviews and student created podcasts. Until software is created to discourage this act of cheating teachers will need to find creative ways to avoid this new cheating buzzword.

    In conclusion, cheating is an inevitable issue teachers face on a yearly basis. Students have found new ways to avoid completing work but are undoubtedly casting their integrity into question and are missing out on bettering their educational experience.

  7. Olivia Bruns says:

    While I never knew it was called “contract cheating,” I knew there were people out there who would write your essay for you for a quick buck. Even I have considered having someone write my essay because there’s never enough time in a day. Essays can be one of the most challenging (besides tests) tasks to accomplish, especially for someone like myself who can’t string words together with proper grammar. So it’s not surprising that there are companies out there willing to take money to write you an essay.

    In the “The Conversation” article I found that it was surprising that those who were international students attending the University of South Australia and that English wasn’t their first language, were the ones who didn’t know the academic integrity processes, were the ones who were using these websites the most. So I wonder if that’s also true everywhere around the world. Are schools talking about contracting cheating and that it is still a form of cheating with their students, international or not?

    It’s a very interesting concept, it’s technically not plagiarism since you’re not duplicating someone else’s work. So how would you rate this on a scale from 1-10 of ethical standards? Obviously, it’s not the most ethical thing one can do, but at least someone isn’t just copying and pasting from someone else’s article online or stealing another student’s paper and calling it their own.

    For contract cheating, I personally do find it unethical, even though it is original work, it is not YOUR original work which is what your professor is expecting. Even if you think you can get away with it, you still shouldn’t do it. I agree with Madison’s comment about breaking the essay up in pieces, it makes the paper more bearable and doesn’t make an individual as pressured to write a paper.

  8. Holly Sampson says:

    Contract Cheating has been something that I’ve heard of in a small sense but I’ve never read into much detail about any of it. The main platform that I’ve seen it on has been Twitter. I’ve actually received private messages from sites saying that they have students who could “write my paper for me”. Which now I know is actually called “Contract Cheating”.

    It’s shocking to me that 31 million college students admitted to paying for third parties completing their college work and higher level of this group is international students. However, it does not surprise me that the college students expectations, or requested grade, was not met. Overall, this form of cheating truly isn’t worth it. Students are paying to receive below average grades, when they could most likely write the paper themselves and obtain a better grade. I wouldn’t consider Contract Cheating a form of “plagiarism” but I also understand why someone would be it is not the “students” own thoughts and work.

  9. Lexie Hetu says:

    Even though this article is quite insightful towards the reasoning behind collegiate contract cheating and how it can be presumably justified, it sounds extremely similar to the definitions of plagiarism. The repercussions of being caught plagiarizing can result in a failure from a class or even expulsion depending on the institution you attend, so what makes contract cheating any different?

    As an enrolled student you should be held accountable for the work you produce, but the lines become blurred when it is still technically original work, just not yours. The risk factor for even attempting to plagiarize should result in the same consequences as academic dishonesty regardless of the extent of the assignment.

    Contract cheating can be easily identified however, so if you’re late on an assignment and think paying a third party is your best bet, think again. The easiest identifiers of a compromised paper are weak informal writing, improper format, and random words in an attempt to make you sound smarter. Odds are if you think you can get away with it, think again.

  10. Savannah Vanwert says:

    The concept of “contract cheating” blows my mind. It’s amazing to me how widely this is used and that many people do not consider it cheating. I know several people who have utilized these websites that offer to write essays for money. These students were nervous about turning in a paper that they did not write themselves, but they didn’t see it as a form of plagiarism. However, plagiarism is the act of taking credit for someone else’s work which is exactly what contract cheating is.

    In the NPR article someone mentioned that it didn’t really matter if students turned in essays in college but essays won’t benefit their career. I disagree. Learning to write in a proficient manner helps with other forms of communication which will be beneficial in most careers.

    I think it’s smart that people are creating new technology with the ability to detect contract cheating. Cheating is a form of dishonestly and should never be used in school or become a habit in life. It’s unethical that students are taking credit for work that did not do themselves. School is stressful, but that doesn’t give people the right to cheat.

  11. Tucker Vermillion says:

    I think this topic is very interesting. As college students, we face MANY challenges in life. We’re thrown into an adult world where we must make our own decisions without assistance and for the first time we must reap our consequences without the assistance of others. This is to say that to a student, you go out, get wasted, and the next day you wake up hungover. Your paper is due the next day but you can’t even bare to glare at a computer screen without throwing up. Do you not turn anything in and get a 0? Do you ask for an extension? Or do you pay someone to do your paper yourself?

    I find it intriguing because the definition of cheating is “act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage, especially in a game or examination” so in a way, you are cheating as you’re acting unfairly. Some might question this by saying they have the means to afford it so it isn’t unfair. On the plagiarism subject, when purchasing your essay, you’re practically paying for the rights of the essay, therefore making it yours.

    I think it’s interesting. We’ve all been tempted to do something like this, take the easy way out. It’s human nature to want things to be easy and if you have the means to do it, why not? I think it’s a good discussion for people to debate.

  12. Savanah Black says:

    While I have definitely heard about the websites and companies that will write essays for students, I never knew the official name. I actually had a coworker who told me about her use and experience with one of these websites. She told me how she payed $30 for her final essay to be written for her, and when she got it back it was in broken English and some was even in Chinese. She said she then went through the essay and fixed all the grammatical errors, ultimately taking the amount of time that it would have taken her to write the essay in the first place.

    Now knowing that contract cheating is becoming a very popular thing, I will definitely keep my eyes open for websites that offer these services (not for myself to use, just to learn more about them). I definitely think that these websites and services should be held accountable for their actions as they are offering to help college students cheat their way through school.

    At first I didn’t consider contract cheating to be plagiarism, but the more I read about it and thought about it, I changed my mind. Contract cheating is very similar to plagiarism in that you are taking someone’s work and using it as your own, even if you have that person’s permission.

  13. Simon Brady says:

    Prior to reading these pieces I wasn’t very familiar with contract cheating at all. So a few comments in this article were very jarring. Specifically, the unidentified student who tried to justify contract cheating by saying that it isn’t actually cheating because it’s original work.

    This is beyond laughable to me. Students who cheat should at least accept and acknowledge what it is they’re doing. No, you’re not copying work but you’re taking work that isn’t yours and trying to pass it off as your own. It’s cheating all the same. Hearing an excuse like that tells me that student will try to coast through life doing as little as possible in terms of work, and it’ll backfire on them in a big way.

    Second, I was shocked by the amount of advertising these contract cheating companies use on students in an offline setting. Utilizing flyers, ads, and banners to get their name out there seems appalling in this day in age for what they’re trying to sell. But, I must say its a pretty smart tactic for reeling kids in to contract cheating.

    At the end of the day I don’t believe anyone should be contract cheating. Not only is it unfair to students who take their academics seriously, but it builds a terrible habit moving forward that students will continue to use after college if they’re successful with it. A ‘well, if I can get away with cheating in school I can cheat anywhere’ mentality will set in.

    Having said that, I partially understand it from this standpoint. I attended a blue ribbon high school, one of the top academic public schools in Massachusetts. As I dreaded the requirements for essay structure in high school my parents and teachers always said ‘you complain now but you’ll be happy you had this when you’re in college.’ Sure enough, they were right. I have always felt like I had an advantage over most of my peers at UT for long essays because of the structural format that’s been embedded in me.

    So, for a student who doesn’t have that advantage, writing long essays is a scary, tedious, and time consuming process. So although contract cheating shouldn’t be accepted anywhere, I can understand when students who feel in over their head heading into a lengthy essay choose drastic measures as an alternative that feels necessary.

  14. Elisabeth Kip says:

    Before this article I never heard the term “contact cheating.” I was aware that students can pay people to write their essays for them but I never knew there was an actual term for it. What I really didn’t know was how popular contact cheating is. In The Conversation article, I found it interesting that international students at the University of Australia and students whose first language isn’t English are the ones who use these cheating services the most. In reality it does make sense but still it’s not right or an excuse to use them. This made me wonder do international schools not emphasize how wrong cheating and plagiarism is? Personally, having study abroad my professors did go over their cheating and plagiarism policy. However, not once did I ever submit my work into systems like Turnitin. So it made me question are systems like Turnitin not used internationally? And is cheating and plagiarism not a huge issue?

    Overall, I think contact cheating is wrong and unethical. But I can see how people claim it as a gray area. One can argue it’s not cheating because they are not copying another work. But in the end the person who handed in the assignment did not do it, so to me that is cheating. I think it will be interesting to see how universities will handle contact cheating especially if it continues to grow in popularity. I find it comforting that Turnitin is updating their software and will now have a program called authorship investigate. It will be interesting to see if this new software will put an end to contact cheating or will it just motivate students to find other ways to cheat and plagiarize.

  15. Sabel Bezet says:

    I, for one, have always looked at cheating as a very black and white topic. Whatever is not original work that is done by the actual student that is turning it in, is cheating. It is a false representation of the abilities, knowledge and skills of the actual student.

    I disagree with Tovia Smith from the NPR story mentioned above that just because a transaction is involved, it doesn’t constitute as cheating. This is, what I would call, luxury cheating. Haha. In actuality, how is this paid-for work any more or less ‘original work’ than the work that is red flagged by turnitin.com? The answer is, it’s not.

    It comes to no surprise that honor codes at certain institutions directly correlate with its cheating rates among students. In this article linked, it is said that an honor code can foster a feeling of community. I’m a firm believer that a school attracts students who are like minded in fundamental values such as honor codes. If students are the ones making the rules and enforcing the rules, they are much more likely to adhere to the rules. It creates an environment of collaboration, not domination.

  16. Jessica Sivillo says:

    Before reading this article and talking about the topic briefly in class, I had never heard of the term “contract cheating.” Although I knew about students paying other classmates or website services to do their work, I did not realize how big of a problem this has become. I find it interesting that some students who practice contract cheating do not believe it is plagiarism. Yet, I have to acknowledge that I have been very educated and informed about all types of plagiarism since high school. While I think the University of Tampa does an exceptional job defining plagiarism policies, other universities may not.

    In The Conversation article, I found it fascinating that many international students turn to contract cheating. As I thought about possible explanations for this, I realized how difficult it might be for some international students to complete assignments based on a language barrier. While this should never be an excuse to cheat, I think this raises an important conversation for educators and how they would accommodate and teach students who do not speak English as their primary language.

    I also liked how The Conversation included how educators can modify and adapt assignments in light of this contract cheating culture. Based on my own student experience, I could understand why some would pay for someone else to do their work. Does this mean I personally would do this? Absolutely not. However, it is too often that professors assign work that is typically looked at as “busy work.” Maybe students would feel more engaged and encouraged to complete assignments that relate to the real world, like the NPR article mentioned. Either way, I hope this becomes a prevalent conversation in the education system in order to fix the problem before students find yet another way to promote cheating.

  17. Bruno Polonio says:

    Students looking for ways to an easy way around having to do the work on their assignments and projects is nothing new. Besides, we are living in an era of immediacy due to numerous factors, such as the development of technology, the internet, social media, texting, etc. People do not want to wait for anything anymore or spend a considerable amount of time doing a task, sometimes even the ones they enjoy the most.

    Time has become a premium commodity. However, students still need to make an effort to deal with assignments, projects, due dates, and especially those long papers and essays to pass a class. A significant need appears with high demand, and so a huge business opportunity.

    Since plagiarism has become too risky, Contract Cheating is now more than ever the preferred form of getting an easy A or just to not having to do the work. It can be tempting to have a friend to do the work for you or just getting it done with a few clicks and a monetary transaction. Still, this practice is lazy and unethical, and most of all, senseless. Students are already paying for a service, their education. They choose to be there and should know what to expect. And sometimes it is difficult, boring, and exhausting. But, If they can’t handle doing a paper, imagine having to deal with challenges in their future careers and personal life.

    Although I have this strong position, I do not condemn people that choose to use these kinds of practices. I know a few people that have done it; I just don’t think it is worth it.

  18. Jessie Tobin says:

    Before reading through these articles I didn’t realize how many college students were seeking help from this part of the dark web. You hear all about plagiarism but not much about buying original work for assignments. This is a topic for students to be more ethical but also for companies to be more ethical. Having a platform and connections, essay mills are able to persuade students through social media and get them to believe that this is an ethical way to solve their issues.

    Depending on the class and the professor I think some students believe it is better to turn to an easier and quicker solution when it comes to finishing assignments. In some cases, a student may be struggling in a class and choose to buy an essay to relieve stress. Whereas others may be lazy and feel that doing a particular assignment is a waste of time and would rather pay for an essay. Either way, I think that this is a serious issue that is only going to progress unless people are more aware of how detrimental it can be ethically and morally down the road.

  19. Erika Peitersen says:

    I had heard about websites and professional services that students could hire to do their work, which I found was a very unethical and suspicious option to getting work done, but it is even more absurd to me that people would rather pay someone else to do their work instead of doing it themselves. I find it being the exact same thing as cheating and I don’t think it helps the student in any way. Plus, you lose out on money that could be put toward something else, especially when on a college student budget.

    First, I would never consider “contract cheating” myself but the concept also seemed very suspicious to me because you can never be too sure how the person contracted is doing the work. They themselves could be plagiarizing and then it becomes a lose lose situation. I find it even more absurd that students are now making jobs out of “contract cheating” and themselves becoming people other students can pay to do their work. It adds to the notion that education is not about learning the material anymore. Today’s students are more focused on making deadlines and getting good grades than actually getting something out of the assignment given to them.

  20. Jonathan Nevius says:

    Contract cheating is, in every way, plagiarism. The definition of plagiarism is “the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.” Nowhere in the definition does it include that the content must be “stolen,” simply that passing off non-original work as your own is plagiarism. Purchasing this content still fully fits the description.

    In my opinion, we attend college in order to educate ourselves and learn about our desired future careers. If you are interested in paying an individual to do your work, there is no reason to spend the money/go into debt required to attend college. It’s not high school, it’s not mandatory. We are here of our own free will to expand our minds, experience, and network, none of which are achieved by utilizing unoriginal work.

  21. It should come as no surprise that cheating is as commonplace in college culture as Greek Life. This is not a new problem, cheating has been around since the beginning of standardized education. As a result, universities are swiftly implanting websites such as Turnitin.com to crack down on cheating. The opportunity for academic dishonesty is obvious, and not necessarily morally wrong, especially since I feel there’s a distinction between getting inappropriate help from friends, or classmates, and contract cheating, where a student pays a third party to complete their schoolwork.

    Most college students have seen, first hand, dishonest academic behaviors such as copying, cheating on tests, or fabricating information. While to many this is both plagiarism and unethical, I believe this is too narrow a definition, rather, I see this type of student conduct as using one’s resources to better one’s current situation. At times, the demands of college can be unbearable for students, most are looking to succeed and move onto bigger and better things. Time restraints and work load can motivate a student to believe the the only way to complete an assignment or pass an exam is to cheat or copy work. Certainly, the consequences of not doing one’s own work is that the student never learns, and while I agree with this, additionally, I believe the mindset of a lot of college students is to simply complete educational requirements and graduate. In other words, students care more about the end goal, the college degree, than they care about the learning process. They study for the exam and often completely forget the information as soon as the test is over. I argue that this is not learning and provides no benefit to the academic process. Even though contract cheating is work that is original, all the ideologies and thoughts in the paper are original, to me, this is technically also not plagiarism. Still, I believe this level of cheating is wrong because to pay someone for a paper, or to take a test, is a deliberate, pre-planned decision to not do one’s own academic work.

    Personally, I do not cheat because I decided the risks outweigh the rewards. Moreover, in my opinion, there is a fine line between contract cheating, intentionally purchasing a paper or service, to the more common forms of academic dishonesty like copying homework. Nonetheless, both impact the goals of higher education and the integrity of the learning process. Likewise, any form of cheating should result in consequences, and to me, the risk in college is too great.

  22. Julia Cody says:

    From a very young age, I was taught that cheating is in no way, shape, or form, remotely okay.

    With that being said, I have had a tremendous amount of exposure to my peers cheating in both high school and college. Whether it be copying, plagiarism, having cheat cheats, using unauthorized forms of technology, or now contract cheating, I’ve seen it all.

    I personally don’t think cheating is okay and believe it is unethical. To me, the risk of cheating isn’t worth the possible outcomes. Although, I’ve been in situations where I’ve become frustrated with school because of everything else in life I have going on, I would much rather email a professor to hand in an assignment late and take a loss of points on an assignment, if it still meant that I was completely doing the work on my own instead of paying to hand in something from the internet. Especially if it meant there was a possibility I could receive an F in a class or be permanently kicked out of school.

    I think cheating is a gray topic. I believe cheating is based on a persons ethics and moral code. Although I don’t think cheating is okay, I do know a lot of people who truly don’t think cheating is wrong. Nobody is to say whether which group of people’s morals is right and wrong, so as long as peoples code of ethics differ, I believe cheating is a topic that will never be completely black and white.

  23. Nicole Estell says:

    Before reading this article, I was aware of contract cheating but not how much a problem it has become, especially on college campuses. Unfortunately, some students would rather go through the trouble of finding somebody else to do their work than just doing it themselves. If students focused the time, effort, and work it goes into cheating on their work, they would be able to properly do the assignment and learn something.

    Although having someone do the work for may take the stress away for a moment, this is causing the student to miss out on knowledge they would have obtained while completing the assignment and creating bad habits that young adults should not bring into the work place. A student who cheats his/her way through school may graduate with a 4.0 but won’t have any idea how to complete any of the tasks his/her boss may ask of him/her one day.

    Though I don’t believe it is right or would ever do it myself, I understand why students may do it. Being a student is stressful, and I could understand how knowing somebody is going to take care of an assignment for you could take away a little bit of that stress and anxiousness.

  24. Kaliya Ware says:

    Before reading these articles, I had no idea I even knew what the term “contract cheating” meant. I had heard of people buying essays online and turning them in and even thought about doing it myself once or twice due to my pure hatred for writing about things I couldn’t care less about. But I didn’t know the extent to which college students were actually following through with it.

    When I was in high school my teachers told me that it was likely that people would write essays for their peers in exchange for money but to me, it just seems so scary to trust someone else with my grades like that. Maybe it’s just the slight control freak in me, but I’d rather just do the work myself.

    I think that having someone else write an essay for you, even though said essay has no signs of plagiarism, is still plagiarism. A student putting their name on something that they did not do and turning it is plagiarism. There is no other way around it. That’s why I was sort of shocked when I read the Australian professor said, “I actually applaud students that look for options to get the job done and get it done well.”

    It’s a weird concept for me to grasp that someone can literally applaud plagiarism. Especially because we as students are taught since we first start writing essays in middle school that plagiarism in all forms is bad and illegal and could cost you your reputation. I understand that some people are pressed for time and resources but isn’t that what professors are there for? To help you when you need help? If all else fails why not just ask for a time extension to get the job done morally.

  25. Isabel Ruenes says:

    Before reading this blog, I knew that paying someone to do your essays was a thing, but I didn’t realize that it had a specific term to call it and how frequently it happens. In college, one faces many challenges; amongst them is the pressure of turning everything in on-time. Still, there is no need to lose your integrity and risk your education for a little more relief. Paying someone else to do your work has many consequences, being expelled can be one of them, but for sure you will not have learned from the assignment.

    Cheating is a serious offense, and it should not be tolerated, no matter the “level” of it. From the NPR story, I liked that the woman told the girl that maybe the person writing the essay is not cheating since they are doing original work, but the person handing in the work is. No matter the degree of it, it is still cheating in my perspective. I know people who have paid others to do their tasks, and it ends up worse than if they would’ve gotten a bad grade. I am glad that Universities and educators are taking measures to avoid this from happening. I think professors should do a little more to make the students feel more adjusted and discuss deadlines if anyone is having trouble.

  26. Gabriela Perez says:

    It surprises me how many students actually go out of their way to pay someone else to do their assignments and projects. For years now I had seen ads on twitter and facebook from various companies that advertise this service, but it never occurred to me that it was legitimate or even worth the money. Why spend a hundred dollars on a paper when you are perfectly capable of doing it yourself? Throughout our academic careers, it is drilled into our brains to always cite our work in order to avoid plagiarism, now, they are going to start warning students about contract cheating because clearly it is getting to be a serious issue.
    This digital era has bred this new form of cheating and proves to be an ethical challenge that students are facing today. It will be super intriguing to see what new software is made up that will be used to crack down when students are in fact turning in another person’s work.
    After reading these articles what sticks in my head is how sad it is that students feel that they have to participate in contract cheating in the first place. For some students school is a breeze for them and just fly through schooling with ease. For others school is much more difficult and stressful time. So if you have a kid that is struggling in a class and their only chance of passing is to receive an A on some assignment and the option is there to pay someone to do it for them, chances are if they are that desperate they’s consider it at least.
    It might be a long time before it is possible to catch students who are contract cheating but in the end, it is all based on a student’s morality and it is up to them whether or not they want to be ethical.

  27. Julia Hardy says:

    Honestly, I have never heard of the term “contract cheating” before and never would have thought of this being a way to boost grades or get my work done faster. And after reading these articles and listening to the NPR article, I feel like many kids on a daily basis joke and say they will pay someone to help them finish their work. Now in the future with all the changes to technology, could the idea of “contract cheating” could start to hinder the ability for students to collaborate together?

    Personally, I always ask friends to comment on my papers and tell me how I could improve it, but since TurnItIn is now changing the algorithm to be able to detect a change in writing then more and more assignments will get flagged when students are still writing them. If I’m outsourcing to a tutor or friend to edit my essay and they say a phrase or have wording that is different from mine would that now create that issue when turning in my paper since their style could get picked up in my paper?

    I’ve never trusted the idea of essay mills being a good outlet for pre-completed work and I could never trust someone to write me a quality essay solely because the material being taught, in-class and personal experiences on the subject can sway your view and how you write the paper.

    After fully reading the articles, I can see how some students may be cracking under the pressure, be so overwhelmed and look for resources to alleviate some of the work-load they have. Of course, it’s morally and ethically wrong, but when you’re desperate it could be hard for someone to find the fine line between, it’s original written work and “contract cheating” because it isn’t their original work.

  28. Livia Kauffmann says:

    Technology increases throughout the years, and with technological increases, students or people in general quickly figure out loopholes. Paying another student or random person via an online database to write a paper is most definitely considered cheating. However, to some students this would be considered a loophole as they are not personally plagiarizing someone else’s work into their own paper.

    In any case, paying another person off to do your work is cheating and it will leave you lacking skills necessary that are learned through repetition and correcting mistakes throughout his or her own work.

    A point this brought up or me is that in order to pay someone to do your work you need to be able to afford this. While I have never used a website to generate a paper for me I have seen others do it and know that it can be extremely costly. With that being said, it is possible that it is more likely for students who tend to be more financially well off to practice these methods.

    Every student will encounter feelings of overhwelming work loads and will have to find a balance. While I understand taking the easy route will come as a relief, it will not be available in the workforce. Not only is it against school rules but the student is esentially setting themself up for failure in their future.

  29. Madeline Horosky says:

    In the past I have heard about students buying essays online, but I wasn’t aware of the coined term “contract cheating”. I have seen ads for these essay writing services online the past couple of years, but I never thought anything of it. Allowing someone to write an entire paper for you without contributing any of your own thoughts or words seems pointless to me. You aren’t learning or gaining anything positive from doing this. On top of that it is with no doubt ethically wrong.

    Taking someone else’s words and using them as your own is plagiarism, something we are all taught from a very young age. I can understand when you’re younger in middle school you don’t fully understand the concept and make a slip on citing your sources here and there, but as an adult this severity of plagiarism shouldn’t be occurring.

    It is difficult to catch everyone that takes part in contract cheating, but I believe there are steps that Universities and professors can put in place to stop this from happening. Making the penalties for plagiarism known is already happens, but re-enforcing them never hurts. If students are visibly struggling with work and deadlines they should be given more support and encouragement. If they don’t have that, then they are more likely to rely on cheating and plagiarism.

  30. Sydney Cocco says:

    Cheating in general is never acceptable and it blows my mind every semester that people still do it. If a student hands in an essay that they stole from online there is almost a guarantee that they will be caught. Anyone who still does this in my opinion makes it even worse for themselves because it shows complete laziness. At the very least contract cheating shows that a student cares enough to attempt to not be caught. This however is also ridiculous to me because chances are by the time a student hands in a final paper their professor has some sort of idea how they write or how much knowledge they have on the subject they are being graded on. When they pay someone else to write a paper for them it will have a completely different writing style and could potentially even cover topics that were not covered in the class. There are so many ways for professors to know if it is not the students original work that it is a surprise to me that people are still doing it. If students get caught plagiarizing most of the time and the punishment for that could be failing or being expelled it seems to me that it makes more sense to just write a paper yourself and maybe not get the best grade on it and then move on and try harder on the next one.

  31. Regina Acra says:

    As a college student myself, I am aware of the existence of “Contract Cheating”, plagiarism, and other unethical cheating acts and services widely used by college students nowadays. Whether it be a last-minute resort to meet a deadline or just a way to get the job done by someone else, “Contract Cheating” has become an available and very public option for students. The debate regarding this act lies upon the unethicallity of it, given that students are not only committing an illegal act but are also taking away from their own learning experiences and paid education. Education is the prime time for students to get prepared for the work-life that awaits them, it is a time given to us to soak up the most learning and experience we can get in order to feel confident in our skills when it comes to the professional workplace. Thus, cheating your way through college is only taking away from experiences that can help you grow and more prepared for the rest of your life.

    On the other hand, given that this act has become popular and many students are becoming subjects to it, there must be a reason behind the common behavior. Not all students are the same, and because of this, not all the reasons for resorting to “contract to cheat” are equal. The reality is that students carry a lot on their plate, sometimes too much, and there are often constrained to do their workload on short periods of time each day. By any means will cheating ever be an ethical act, but if students are so commonly reaching to it, it must be because there is a certain amount of workload they can’t get to, they aren’t understanding a certain topic, or the difficulty of the task is higher for them.
    Because of this, I believe that one of the solutions to “contract cheating” and cheating in general, aside from making students conscious about the importance of their learning in college, is to promote tutoring services and professor office hours inside the university, and also to aim to cater assignments to more engaging and interesting tasks.

  32. Tyler Nicolaos says:

    Cheating is a very different concept to everyone. Some people cheat because they don’t know the content of what is being presented in class, or some even cheat because they are just too lazy. But the kids that constantly cheat to get through school are just setting themselves up for failure.

    My views on this is that everyone has cheating in their schooling career, not because they needed it, maybe its because they weren’t having the best day/night and couldn’t get the assignment done. If it’s a big assignment like a paper or final project, this should be out of the question to even think about cheating on. If you want someones help with how to get started or need some inspiration, thats fine but don’t take their words out of their mouth and put them on your paper.

  33. Kyle McSorley says:

    This was not the first time I had heard about students buying essays from online companies, however it was the first time I had heard the term “contract cheating.” I experienced first hand what the NPR article discussed about having one of my tweets replied to by numerous people contacting me about writing my essay for me. Personally, I trust myself to produce a quality paper more than some random person that I’ve never met, and I have more pressing things to spend money on than essays.

    I’ve always been an above average writer so I had never been in the position to where I was unable to do an essay for myself, but I can understand how others would find themselves in that position and rationalize the pros and cons of buying an essay. When you complete a transaction with a company on the Internet that may end up using the service to blackmail you, those are the kinds of organizations I try to stay away from with my time and money.

    As for how school’s could combat this, in class essays and advanced plagiarism detection software seems like the best bet. As the NPR article stated, getting into a “technological arms race,” with young students who have been completely immersed in the age of the Internet will probably only have one outcome, and that will end up with these companies growing and growing. It will be interesting to monitor whether in ten years the company’s value will have grown or evaporated as efforts to stamp out contract cheating ramp up.

  34. Brianna Young says:

    I don’t think the issue of contract cheating is a simple one. As a student, it’s easy to see why someone would want to do it. I think we should look deeper into why students feel the need to cheat. I do think part of the problem is that universities are forcing students to take classes they have no interest in, that have a heavier workload. I’ve often asked myself exactly why I should have to slave over a chemistry or philosophy assignment when I’ll never get to apply what I learned to my career. The excuse that students should be “well-rounded” is a weak one, in my opinion. This can be achieved through extracurriculars.
    Still, I wholeheartedly believe that contract cheating is wrong. If a student pays for a class, they should try and get all they can out of it, regardless if they like the class or not. I’ve known someone who seriously considered using one of these services for their paper, because they were struggling with the topic and English being their third language. They had a friend who used the service all the time, and I was astounded. I asked why this friend even bothered to go to college. The friend apparently admitted that their parents sent them to school to get a degree—any degree, it didn’t matter. They would have a job waiting for them once they graduated.
    Learning this made me absolutely angry. Why did they get to coast through college and get a degree I was working hard for? It really isn’t fair to all the people who do their own original work. Not to mention, the extreme privilege one has to have to be able to pay for all these papers. By the sounds of the NPR broadcast, it isn’t at all cheap, especially for a college student.
    There are many interesting facets to this topic, and many social commentary discussions to be had. Obviously, it is morally wrong to cheat in any way, but there are many underlying causes here, not just that a student got too stressed to handle a paper.

  35. Ally Munch says:

    I’m not surprised by contract cheating at all, I have heard of so many people doing it. Even throughout high school I heard people were paying websites and other people to write their papers for them. I definitely think it’s wrong because even though it is original work it’s not the students original work so it technically is plagiarism. I also think not only is it wrong but it’s unfair because the grade you get has such a big impact on your grade for the class and your overall GPA which is very important. There are some students who stay up late and work hard on their school work then another student can just pay someone to write it for them with no effort and get an A.

    When it comes to famous people writing books but having someone help them do it it’s basically the same concept but if the person actually writing the book is working closely with the famous person and getting their thoughts into sentences it isn’t as bad in my opinion. If the famous person isn’t at all involved in the writing and just their name is on it then it’s a different story. Paying someone to complete any kind of writing for you, especially school work where the grade really matters is wrong and it should be stopped.

  36. Ashley Korn says:

    In today’s generation, cheating is very common, especially among college students. I have heard of students paying someone over the internet to write a paper for them or even complete a twelve-page current event. College is extremely overwhelming so cheating by having someone else complete an assignment for you is a way for college students to relieve some of the stress that they receive throughout the school year. I personally don’t have the courage to cheat and would feel even more stressed out of having the idea of being caught.

    What surprised me was that someone considered paying someone else to write their paper to not be considered “cheating,” when it distinctly is. Having someone complete an assignment that is not the work of your own is what I would consider cheating. It also takes away the point of a college education and all the money you are paying to receive that. The point of tough assignments, and time management is to prepare you for the real world because there are no scapegoats when it comes to the real world.

    The risk that comes along with cheating is not worth spending a few hours more working an assignment. If you get caught just once paying someone else to do your paper, you risk failing the entire class as a whole or even getting expelled. In the end result, cheating will never get you anywhere.

  37. Graeme Eber says:

    Before reading this, I had never heard of the term “contract cheating.” I became aware that students are able to buy essays when I got to college, but I didn’t know anything more about it besides the fact that it is possible. I think that this is definitely a growing issue in college. Students have a lot going on between school, extracurricular activities and working. With all of this, it can cause students to become easily overwhelmed and not be able to finish all of their work on time. This makes buying a paper seem very tempting and it is causing more and more students to give in and do it. This issue is also becoming bigger because, like most issues or new trends, once one student talks about how they bought their paper and it made their life so much easier, someone else will want to do it too. Then it becomes a vicious cycle as more and more students start to learn that it was “acceptable.”

    Although this may not be considered “plagiarism,” I think it is basically the same thing. The person who wrote the essay does use all of their own words and writes the essay without plagiarism, but the student who submits this essay is plagiarizing. This is because they are taking someone else’s work and putting their name on it. Although they sold the work to the student, I still feel as if they are plagiarizing.

  38. Wambui Macheho-Mbuthia says:

    “Contract cheating” is something I have heard about before, but I never knew there was a name for it. In our generation, it’s normal for us to be advancing and adapting to the new technologies and easier ways of doing things, but I think this crosses the line just a bit. Although college students face many pressures and get to points where they realize that they have gotten to a point where they can’t do certain assignments, at the end of the day this is 100% a form of plagiarism because those students are submitting words that are not their own with intent of claiming them. They are passing of someone’s work for their own.

    This hits close to home for me because I have a cousin who has created a small business consisting of writing essays for other people. I never agreed with her but it’s the way she makes her money and I’m not in the position to stop her. It confuses me how students pay to take a class and learn certain information, yet put no effort into it and their money goes to waste.

    This happens so much more often than we think, as well, because I’ve witnessed people asking their friends to write their papers for them for a quick $20. Although the blame should go on both the students writing the essays as well as the students receiving them, I mainly place the blame on our advancement in generation and how accessible things are becoming. From not having to go buy your own groceries to having rides available at the touch of a button, things have become so easy. No is forcing students to take advantage of these essay writing services and since it is not their original work, they should not be submitting it.

  39. Maayan Dadosh says:

    Prior to reading the articles, I was aware that there are businesses that make their money off of students who are willing to pay to have their papers written for them. What I wasn’t aware of was the term, “contact cheating.” Personally, I think that this topic is very black and white because it is all about perspective and one’s morality. I think that instead of just pointing fingers at the students, we need to look at the bigger picture and get a closer look at all the possible reasons why students go to great lengths to get their work done. Our education system has created an environment where students feel that their grades define how the rest of their lives will be. From personal experience, when I have been assigned a paper it is almost always a large portion of my grade and even if I have maintained an A average throughout the semester, just receiving an alright grade on that paper alone would have brought down my overall grade…and that is just for one class. So, I do understand the pressure college students experience as well as seeing why some are willing to spend the money to just get it done.

    Yes, having someone write an essay for you is no doubt plagiarism. It is frowned upon because some students might receive a good grade and get away with it without any repercussions. But if we are going to look at the average student and what they do to get their work done, I think we need to look into all other situations as well. What I am referring to are the college advisors hired by the parents to make sure their child’s college essays are perfect before they get sent out or even the college athletes who receive private and extra academic help. Why are these not frowned upon? The parents are paying an advisor to reconstruct their child’s essay because they want them to get into good colleges. Schools will give athletes extra help because if the player is failing, they cannot play, and if they can’t play it affects the team, and if the team does not have a good season, it ultimately affects how much profit the school makes because sports are a big source of a college’s money.

    The only difference I see is that in these scenarios, it is not only the student who is benefitting but another person/greater cause. What is ironic is that the other benefactors are in positions where they can stop it but instead do not due to personal gain.
    Although contract cheating is a growing problem, I think we are benefitting from it as well. In one of the articles, they mention how this problem has forced professors to look at other ways to assign work that you cannot copy. Just how some people are not great standardized test takers, there are students who are not good at putting together a well constructed essay.

  40. Michaela Dooley says:

    I wasn’t aware of the term “contract cheating” until more recently, but I had heard of students paying for other’s to do their assignments for them. I’ve never felt that it was alright to cheat or pay someone to do my work. One value I stand by is that credit should be given where it’s due. However, when reading more, I wasn’t all that surprised to find out that students are rationalizing that there’s nothing wrong with this form of cheating.

    During my time in college, I’ve talked to several people who have had to juggle life, work, family, health and many other issues along with attempting to take a full class load. Some are able to do so easier than others, but the struggle is often evident when their work starts to slip in one of these categories. I’ve also met a lot of people who are so anxious over maintaining a job while going to school and also trying to excel in extracurricular activities or internships because they fear their degree just won’t be enough to succeed in a decent career upon graduating. It makes sense to me that they would be desperate to do well.

    That being said, contract cheating is not an action that I would suggest to anyone. There are so many reasons to argue against it. It is its own form of plagiarism in which a student takes credit for wor that is not his/her own, and it doesn’t allow for a proper assessment on the student’s personal work. Contract cheating also doesn’t give a guaranteed 100% for students, which can lead to those “essay mills” taking advantage of the student.

    I do appreciate how the article from ‘The Conversation’ provided ways to discourage contract cheating. Having alternate methods to assess students provides not only an easier way to track if a student’s work is his or her own, but it also gives the student a way to gain experience in their projected field. When students are given a diverse way of learning, I think it gives them a step up on what they’re going to school for. I know that I am always more motivated to work on a project where I’m immersing myself into the work versus if I’m panicking over a large essay from each class. Giving students an option to show their creativity through assignments can also help encourage them to grow in their own work rather than pulling from somebody else.

    At the end of the day, the ethical responsibility for a student’s work falls to themselves. There are so many resources, and often times if they communicate their concerns with their professors, a resolution can be brought to light.

  41. Zach Alecci says:

    I think that this is just as bad as any other form of cheating. If anyway there is anyway that someone does not do an assignment then it is considered cheating in my opinion. It does not matter if you pay someone or you just ask as a favor. The fact of the matter is that students are assigned assignments so that they can learn from it. If someone does not do an assignment then they are only cheating themselves and others. Paid or not cheating is cheating no matter what you put it. It is a very serious and bad thing to do at college.

  42. Brianna Young says:

    Contract cheating is an issue that has many facets. I think we can look deeper for the underlying cause rather than just reasoning that students are stressed and want an easy way out. Universities definitely contribute to the problem by having impossible workloads and making students take classes they aren’t interested in for the sake of being “well-rounded.” A student can become well-rounded by extracurriculars, not just a random variety of classes.

    Nevertheless, contract cheating is morally wrong. I have known people who have done it, mostly because English was their second or third language, and they got overwhelmed. I’ve also heard of my roommate’s friend, who was sent to school by their parents to get a degree—any degree, because he had a job waiting for him when he graduated. He used these essay mills for all of his work. It definitely bothers me that he could just coast along with minimal work, and I had to slave over papers. At the end of the day, we would get the same degree, and I don’t think it’s fair.

    Also, a student has to be incredibly privileged to be able to pay for this sort of thing all the time. Not everyone can shell out for ten-page paper so easily. I don’t think this issue is a simple one, and I don’t think it can be so easily eradicated, as it can be hard to detect in the first place.

  43. Jolie Prins says:

    During my time in college, I’ve talked to several people who have had to get through life one their own without money of their own and without the support that everyday people have. Cheating in any form in this day and age should not be correct. I personally have not come from a privileged place where that is morally correct to pay for an essay being done for them. This in return makes professors conflicted and some don’t know whether or not this is their work.
    After reading this article, in my opinion cheating in any form is wrong and unfair for the people who try extra hard just to get a decent grade.
    The risk that comes along with cheating is not worth spending a few hours more working on that required assignment. If you get caught you risk failing the class, or worse being kicked out.

  44. Michael Dye says:

    Contact Cheating is an issue I find rather interesting because I have not looked in depth on this issue before. Most professors, and several students most likely find contract cheating wrong. It allows students with low work ethic to receive the same grade or higher as hard working students. It also does not help the student’s confidence that is cheating, which can lead to issues when dealing with problems in the work force. All a student will learn from contract cheating is how to cheat and no actual knowledge.

    On the other side contract cheating does not involve stealing credited work. Sometimes students can still learn through having someone else do it for them. Are teachers providing examples of what is being asked to do? Some students may not feel comfortable asking for help in fear of feeling dumb or lesser then their peers. Is what is being asked for completion something the student finds beneficial or interesting? Some teachers might not teach in a way that the students actually are learning. In return students must work harder to understand topics. Is it fair for students to have classes taught in an insufficient way that they pay for? Whose fault is it that students feel the need to have other people do work for them to get by?

    I also want to emphasize that there are different levels of contract cheating. Sometimes students will have their peers, or pay someone, to revise work and write things in a different form. Students might write some of the paper and have someone else finish it. Where is the line for how much help someone can get with college work? If a student has their professor help them privately on a project and another student does not is that similar to what I mentioned earlier “It allows students with low work ethic to receive the same grade or higher as hard working students” Because one student needed help, and another is either already at a level they do not need help or is possibly just afraid to ask for help.

    Why does the system work in a way that students feel the need to cheat in the first place?
    Contact cheating can almost be impossible to track because anyone can write anything for anyone else. No one would know that someone used contact cheating in certain situations unless the student fessed up to it. How do you control an issue that’s almost uncontrollable?

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