The Boom of Essay mills
Indications are that students are increasingly turning to the so-called essay mills to write their scientific papers and essays. A recent large-scale study concluded up to 15% of students had (admitted to) paying for someone else to write their work and a university vice chancellor has called on governments to regulate as these businesses become ever more aggressive in their advertising. Students are targeted via social media offering to write to order at as little as £7 (CHF 9 per page).
Concern about the burgeoning essay mills industry is increasingly preoccupying education and college regulators. In recent months, there have been calls and actions in the USA, the UK, Kenya, New Zealand and Ireland to legislate against or ban these ghost writers from providing or advertising their services.
Students run the risk of severe penalties, including being ex-matriculated or having their degree titles revoked. Essay mills advertise there will be no plagiarism in the paper supplied – but of course the entire paper is plagiarism (i.e. the theft of someone else’s work – in this case, the work of the essay mill writer). And the quality of the work delivered varies widely from gibberish to passable. If discovered the repercussions are huge (e.g. the high profile court case where parents paid eye-watering sums for ghost-written college entrance exams.)
Universities are rightfully concerned. The software used by most universities (including the FHNW) detects similarity in a paper to content elsewhere. It cannot usually spot a ghost-written paper. The indicators for an essay-mill production lie more within detecting whether it is consistent with a student’s style and previous production.
Various developments to ban essay mills from operating, advertising or receiving payment are under way as the booming practice undermines the quality and reputation of universities and their degrees.