The NYT reported yesterday in a ‘the internet might be destroying the fabric of our society’ article that students who are desperate, dishonest or rich (or any combination) can buy made-to-order term papers on the World Wide Web for as little as $9.95. A NYT editor solicited term papers on common English lit topics from three different sites. Thankfully for the future of humanity, the resulting essays were incredibly bad! The papers produced for the NYT were of such poor quality that Harvard Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt, when shown an essay on the nature of Ophelia‘s madness in Hamlet, guessed he would be unable to give it more than a D+. Of course, we assume that Harvard has its own in-house system for term paper manufacture, and that Harvard students in general have more sophisticated resources at their disposal. These are just harmless websites for regular kids who don’t want to do their homework. Or are they?
Intrigued by the author’s suggestion that some of the papers they had ordered might have been written by non-native speakers of English, and might well be just another form of outsourcing to the Subcontinent, I visited a couple of sites. On following a few links, I was horrified to learn that while there are many fine citizens of the USA helping young people churn out term papers, there are also many fraudulent, foreign sites, such as those listed on the very helpful watchdog site essayfraud.org. The authors at essayfraud.org reveal to us the seamy underbelly of the otherwise legitimate business of third-party term-paper manufacture. Fraudulent sites include essayrelief.com and nicetermpaper.com, which are both actually fronts for a vast Pakistani crime syndicate.
This Pakistani crime syndicate is charged with the following atrocities:
Fraudulent, foreign sites like EssayRelief, MasterPapers, EssayToday, BestEssays, NiceTermPaper, and SuperiorPapers hire ESL writers in Pakistan for as little as .70¬¢ per page so that they can offer the low prices ($9.95‚Äì$15.95/pg) that lure consumers into their traps. In general, qualified writers in America will not work for less than $12.00/pg, yet foreign scam sites like TermPaperRelief charge customers only $9.95/pg. If the company receives $9.95/pg from a customer, that means the unqualified writer receives less than $2.00/pg! Of course, foreign rip-off sites do not reveal these extremely crucial details to prospective customers. They blatantly lie about their location and qualifications. In contrast, legitimate companies in America employ professional, native English-speaking writers for at least $12.00/pg, and typically charge consumers $17-$40/pg, depending on timeframe.
What’s more, these ‘bogus’ term paper mills pose a national security threat to the United States:
In addition to their fraudulent term paper mills, the Pakistani criminals at EssayRelief.com operate non-existent, bogus “universities” and “accreditation organizations” like Rochville University, Belford University, Ashwood University, WOEAC, and BOUA, which were exposed by CNN for perpetrating blatant fraud and posing a NATIONAL SECURITY THREAT.
The main disadvantage to using these Pakistani crime syndicate services according to essayfraud.org is the poor ‘ESL-style’ English found in their products. A brief survey demonstrates that indeed, there is a special flavor to be found in the English on some of these sites (though I’m not sure the term ESL precisely covers it), such as in this quality guarantee from nicetermpaper.com:
Due to our efficient service, we have been successful to gain the name of best and the most reliable writing service on the web. All of our writers are exceptionally highly qualified and experienced; they know what they have to do. Our service includes the preparation of different types of custom term papers, essays, research papers, book reviews, thesis and dissertations. We are destined to provide the students winning chance they deserve for their academic career rather than cheated material. We custom make their papers according to their own requirements and desires.
On the other hand, honest, legitimate sites based in the US show the clear and unmistakeable writing style of a mediocre American college student. At www.superior-termpapers.com, the writers claim that they have “helped an infinite amount of students improve their GPA,” and warn us that they “…understand that a lot of sites in the writing industry don’t have phone numbers and are based out of developing countries, for this reason we want to distance ourselves from being this type of service.”
The more insidious and allegedly Pakistani crime syndicate site essayrelief.com is harder to sniff out, however, due to a recent Americanization of its format which makes it virtually undetectable as part of a vast foreign crime network. According to essayfraud.org,
The EssayRelief criminals from Pakistan recently paid a designer to give their sites a “facelift” in hopes of making them appear more “American.” They falsely claim to be from America, which is why they do not display a corporate address for verification. (However, they do have the shocking audacity to paraphrase an “Industry Warning,” which contains information that they stole and plagiarized from EssayFraud.org.) As we discovered when placing phone calls to 1-866-882-6310 and 1-866-660-1717, a person with a Pakistani accent will tell every lie in the book to secure your money. Don’t believe a single word. The material you receive (if at all) will be riddled with grammatical and spelling mistakes.
As if this weren’t bad enough, the Pakistani sites, it seems, condone plagiarism! In the list of “Top 11 Warning Signs that a Site Hires ESL Writers from Overseas,” this intriguing item comes in a #10: ” Transfers copyright to the customer (condones plagiarism).”
It seems that this is an important quality that separates the legitimate (US-based) term paper mills from the criminal ones. The allegedly American site www.superior-termpapers.com contains the following disclaimer in tiny letters at the bottom of its home page:
Superior-Termpapers.com is owned and operated by TPE Inc. All work ordered through this or any site owned by TPE Inc. remain the property of TPE Inc. and are easily available for worldwide publishing. Any written work sold by TPE Inc. are intended for research purposes only and may only be used as a reference source by students writing their own essays. All essays must be cited according to the examples given to you in the cite-us section of our site. Be advised that it is illegal to buy any of our model reports and submit them as your own, in whole or in part, for academic credit. By ordering a report through our company you agree that it is legal to do so in your city, state/province, and country.
On their faq page, the disclaimer is slightly different but a little clearer:
Copyright 2001-2003 The Paper Experts Inc. All text, images, tags and design of this site are property of The Paper Experts Inc. Our service is intended to help students improve their marks not help them cheat. We are a service that writes term papers as models or guides to be used by students in creating their own original work. Anytime you use our ideas or words you are required to properly attribute credit to The Paper Experts Inc. If you would like to inform yourself on this matter please contact us and ask. All works written by us remain our property. We are always happy to help students improve and succeed in their academic endeavors.
Just like escort services, term paper writing services maintain their legality in the US by claiming not to sell the products they produce. The threat to their legitimate business comes from offshore locations where copyright laws and plagiarism belong to a more hazy domain. As the allegedly Pakistani site nicetermpaper.com explains, “to us, plagiarism is a sin.” A sin, perhaps, but not a crime.