Term Paper Writing for Hire
This recent essay (commentary here) reminded me of this older essay, both by people who write student term papers for hire.
There are several services that do automatic plagiarism detection—basically, comparing phrases from the paper with general writings on the Internet and even caches of previously written papers—but detecting this kind of custom plagiarism work is much harder.
I can think of three ways to deal with this:
- Require all writing to be done in person, and proctored. Obviously this won’t work for larger pieces of writing like theses.
- Semantic analysis in an attempt to fingerprint writing styles. It’s by no means perfect, but it is possible to detect if a piece of writing looks nothing like a student’s normal writing style.
- In-person quizzes on the writing. If a professor sits down with the student and asks detailed questions about the writing, he can pretty quickly determine if the student understand what he claims to have written.
The real issue is proof. Most colleges and universities are unwilling to pursue this without solid proof—the lawsuit risk is just too great—and in these cases the only real proof is self-incrimination.
Fundamentally, this is a problem of misplaced economic incentives. As long as the academic credential is worth more to a student than the knowledge gained in getting that credential, there will be an incentive to cheat.
Related note: anyone remember my personal experience with plagiarism from 2005?
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