Over the past three years, several publications, amongst which we may mention Chronicle of Higher Education and BBC Education News, have written a series of articles on the custom academic writing industry. While the articles were largely solid and
accurate, they failed to highlighted a number of critical points:
1) The legitimate companies in this industry functions as academic help centres and neither neither enable nor condone plagiarism. The custom researches we provide are intended for use as models upon which students may base their own research studies. Certainly, they are entitled to use all the same sources we have and to follow our structure and layout. They are not, however, allowed to present these studies as their own. Many of us strictly prohibit their doing so
and provide students with a detailed explanation of the legitimate and ethical
uses of custom research studies. Some companies, however, only pay lip-service to the concepts of academic integrity and research ethics by informing their customers, in barely visible, miniscule, font that the provided essay is for reference purposes only. Unfortunately, educators tend to lump us all together.
2) The academic custom writing industry has been thriving for years, long before the advent of the internet. The internet has expanded the market beyond all expectations. The industry is constantly growing and is not about to go anywhere. It is a reality. The failing standards of universities have made it a reality; the fact that students do not receive the academic guidance they need from their instructors/tutors/lecturers and thesis/dissertation supervisors, is the root cause of both the birth and growth of this industry. Universities need to take a good look at themselves before blaming the falling standards of education on us.
The tendency of both universities and the media to dismiss this industry as unethical and all who operate within it as plagiarism-enablers, seriously exacerbates the problem. In a very real, and dangerous way, this is forcing the industry underground. The outcome has been the rise of countless plagiarism-condoning and enabling websites from Eastern Europe, Pakistan and India. These sites hire substandard writers who lack any/all academic qualifications and are sorely incapable of writing a single sentence in proper English. These sites may be cheaper than the legitimate ones but their profit margins are much higher since they pay their writers $ 3-8 per page. Yet, on their client-end websites they claim that they only hire MA and PhD level, British and American writers, and present themselves as UK or US-owned. Instead of targeting the websites which engage in consumer fraud and openly encourage plagiarism, the media and universities are lumping us all together.
Given that this industry is here to stay and in light of the fact that it will continue to expand, why not create a set of industry standards? If universities really want to tackle the “contract plagiarism” crisis, they need to enter into dialogue with industry operatives and work with us towards the creation of some sort of regulatory body. If this problem is to be resolved, it is imperative to weed out the substandard sites which encourage
plagiarism and ensure that the only ones who remain in operation are those which do not encourage plagiarism and do not engage in consumer fraud. If the intent is the resolution of the problem, rather than its discussion for entertainment purposes, both
universities and the media need to talk to us and acknowledge that we, in this industry, cannot be lumped together in one basket. Not all of us are plagiarism-enablers or thrive on encouraging students to forgo academic integrity principles.