WriteCheck Blog

Testing Ghostwriters: Why Cheaters Still Don't Prosper

These days, it seems as if it’s easier than ever to find someone to help you cheat.

If you don’t have the right connections or can’t find someone you trust at your school or college, you can always grab your credit card and go online, paying one of dozens of sites to write your paper for you.

These essay sites promise amazing things, claiming to be 100% plagiarism-free, able to produce high-quality papers on any subject, at any grade level and with extremely quick turnaround. However, even to an untrained eye those expectations seemed very unrealistic.

Academic writing, after all, takes time, especially at the graduate level and even with a small army of essay authors it’s difficult to imagine that they could locate experts on every single subject imaginable.

So we decided to put two of these sites to the test and see how their essays stacked up. We wanted to see not just if they could pass a plagiarism detection check, but also the quality of the work itself and whether it would likely receive a good grade for the assignment we gave them.

When we were done, the results were clear, we had spent a lot of money, but received nearly nothing of value for it.

The Test

Before conducting the test, we researched essay mill sites thoroughly and selected two of the largest, most popular sites based on their rankings in Alexa/Compete and in search engines for relevant terms.

With two sites selected, which from here on will be named simply 1 and 2 to avoid identifying them, we pretended to be a master’s-level student needing a master’s-level paper on a medical topic. For the exact topic, we found an online syllabus for a course at the appropriate level and based our assignment on one that was actually being given to students at a master’s-level class.

That assignment would be to write an informational paper on an issue of the author’s choosing related to financial issues and health policy.

The paper would have to meet the following criteria:

  1. Be written on a master’s degree level
  2. Be 6 double-spaced pages long (4 for the second paper)
  3. Include at least 5 sources in the works cited
  4. Be delivered in no more than four days.

With those instructions in mind we submitted the assignment to both sites and waited for our results.

Site 1 Essay Results (Cost: $150.00 for 6 pages or $37.50 per page)

The issues with Site 1 began even before we received the final paper. On the day the paper was due, we received an email from the site that informed us the author of our paper had experienced “personal problems” and would not be able to complete the paper on time. They asked us if we could give them two more days to finish the paper.

If we had been a real student facing a real deadline, this could have been disastrous, especially since the deadline day was a Sunday and it’s unlikely we would have had time to finish the project on our own.

The paper ended up being submitted just under 24 hours late and, after opening it, problems immediately began to emerge.

Though the paper met the requirements of the assignment in terms of length and sources, the paper was clearly not written on a master’s level. For one, there were several grammatical mistakes in the paper, including questionable and inconsistent uses of “health care” vs “healthcare” such as referring to physicians as “healthcare professionals” when the version with the space would have been a better choice.

The sources of the paper were also an issue. Though it had more than the five required sources there were no academic journals or private sources of any type. Among the sources were an article in Forbes magazine, two editorial pieces by political groups and free samples from a textbook that were available online.

The biggest problem, however, was that the paper didn’t seem to have a set topic, discussing a variety of issues and problems with healthcare in the U.S. even though the assignment called for focusing on just one. Instead, the paper, entitled “The Politics and Problems of Health Insurance” discussed everything from access to healthcare, to how new technology drives up the cost of care and more.

A plagiarism check of the paper revealed that it had a similarity score of just 11%. This is within the normal range, and, in looking at the matches found, most of the matching text was correctly attributed. However, there was one passage, approximately 40 words, that was copied near-verbatim without quotations from a WordPress.com blog that was not cited in the footnotes.

If I had been a student already suspected of plagiarism, this passage could have easily tripped alarms.

In short, the first paper cost us $150 and would have required heavy revisions and additional sources to be practical for the class. Even then, it might have drawn attention for plagiarism due to the suspect passage.

Site 2 Essay Results (Cost: $96 for 4 pages or $24.00 per page)

The second site was significantly cheaper and the process of buying and getting the paper was much smoother. The order was completed and returned on time without any problems.

However, immediately after opening, a glaring issue was found. Though we closely followed the sites guidelines on wordcount to get the correct page length (and the final paper met those requirements), the paper was only 3.25 pages long, meaning we would have had to add another ¾ of a page just to complete the assignment. Even counting the works cited, the paper was over ¼ a page short.

Grammatically, the paper was more sound, though there were several issues including missing commas and run-on sentences. Also, the paper exclusively used the word “healthcare”, indicating it may have been written by an author who was familiar with British English and was  unaware the convention hasn’t changed in the U.S.

More importantly, the content of the paper was almost unintelligible in places, meandering from topic to topic and routinely injecting opinion into what should have been a purely informative and educational paper. The paper included nonsensical and meaningless statements such as “Over the years, a number of legislation regarding the financing of healthcare have been passed” and “In conclusion, both public and private health covers are necessary.”

The paper did cite several journals and, when passed through a plagiarism checker, came back with only a 4% similarity score and all matching text being in the works cited. However, the paper would have required both extension and significant revision to be a viable paper for the course.

Conclusions

When it was all said and done, neither of the two papers were acceptable for their intended purpose. Both were written well below master’s level, contained multiple errors and failed to meet the criteria of the assignment in several ways. Though both did well on plagiarism detection, one still had a passage in it that would cast suspicion on anyone who turned it in.

To make matters worse, neither of these papers were cheap. At $100 and up for a relatively short assignment, likely one of many in that course, it’s clear that anyone who purchased this paper was seeking a final product they could turn in, something neither paper came close to providing.

Though both papers avoided appearing to be significantly plagiarized, it’s clear that these services are not shortcuts to turning in high quality work, especially at a graduate level. To turn either of these papers into a successful assignment likely would have required as much work, if not more, than simply writing the project from scratch.

So while these services may be able to avoid plagiarism detection, they are clearly not a shortcut to a good grade—and are highly unethical.

At the end of the day, there’s still no substitute for hard work and good writing.

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Published on by jbailey.