Essay-writing Web sites raise questions of legitimacy

Internet sites such as The Evil House of Cheat, School Sucks, Phuck School and ACI offer students several kinds of assistance in writing essays.

Some students at UCSD use these services. One student admits to using essay databases for humanities courses.

“”I read the books we were assigned and then I read the essays online. I cut and pasted the ideas that looked good and then re-worded them and wrote the rest,”” he said.

Erin Kocku and Aaron Herzl, both senior communications majors, believe it is unfortunate that students do not produce their own work but do not believe the university can adequately combat cheating.

“”There are just too many people to catch everyone,”” Kocku says.

Yet, some students are not bothered by the fact that many of their peers use these sites. Deann Allbee, a junior biology student, comments that, “”In the long run, developing your own ideas gives you an advantage and people who do not lose out.””

The ACI Writing Assistance Center is a high-end essay-writing company run by Danial K. Berman, Ph.D., who has taught extensively at the college level. His company offers services ranging from editing papers to writing custom papers for customers. Custom papers are written by the company’s staff according to specific instructions given by the student.

Customers first enter the level of work they are doing: undergraduate, master’s or doctoral. ACI then asks the student if he has a good grasp of the English language, so the paper matches his articulation level. Then it asks for a detailed description of the paper ACI will write, including the kind of citations needed. Most papers take at least two weeks to complete.

Daniel supervises the writing of every custom paper, which costs $40 per page with a minimum purchase of $500. ACI’s custom papers are not intended to fulfill academic requirements — they are meant to help students by gathering research materials.

School Sucks has an entirely different system. Its motto is “”download your workload.”” In order to enter the site, you have to click on a button that reads, “”I hereby agree that school sucks.”” It has essays on its free database but also links to papercampus.com for a larger selection of papers that are for sale.

School Sucks has a section of its site dedicated to addressing the questions of educators, focusing more on secondary education. It advocates that, “”Teacher Unions have become Teacher Mediocrity Societies.”” In the Internet age, the site argues, the focus of education should be on developing analytical skills, not memorization.

The Evil House of Cheat, at cheathouse.com, offers free membership to its archive of 1,600-plus essays. But, you have to send them one of your own original essays to become a member. To get access to their entire collection of over 9,500 essays, you have to pay $14.95. Members can view the level the paper was written for, (college or high school), and also the grade the author received for the essay.

When asked how the company can rationalize providing students with essays knowing they may be used dishonestly, an employee from Essay Depot replied that using their essays is, “”Like going to any library and looking at a book.”” He and the company urge that these essays should be used as a reference for ideas exclusively. He defended their position by saying, “”We are very up-front. If a professor asks for cooperation, we cooperate. Our essays are not kept a secret. We routinely send copies of first pages to universities.””

Most sites explicitly warn that when students hand in purchased essays to receive academic credit, they are acting illegally and in an academically dishonest manner. The Cheaters Paradise Web site suggests that students who view their essays can just cut and paste if they want. But, their disclaimer points out that all their advice is a joke and should not be taken seriously.

Jackie Giordano, the academic coordinator for Eleanor Roosevelt College’s Making of the Modern World writing program, said, “”It’s becoming increasingly easy [to plagiarize] because students no longer go to the library to copy ideas, they can just stay in their rooms.””

Last year, MMW professors began using a new program aimed at stopping plagiarism. They require all students to submit their essays electronically to www.turnitin.com. Turnitin.com is a company located in Oakland, Calif. that uses a “”plagiarism prevention system.”” The system cross-checks essays against each other and those submitted in past years for similar content.

Turnitin.com also keeps a database of phrases and ideas that are already published on the Web. If any papers contain plagiarized work either directly or in paraphrased form, the system detects the material and notifies the staff.

MMW has already seen results from using Turnitin.com. Spring quarter of last year they found that several students had submitted essays with sections either taken from the Web or from books that had been cited on the Web. The students were punished according to UCSD’s academic policies.

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