Selling term papers

July 16, 2021 • 2:00 pm

I had heard that you can buy term papers online, though I never encountered one in my classes (I didn’t assign term papers in undergraduate evolution classes). But a ping on one of my posts, in particular the one criticizing Agustín Fuentes’s Science op-ed indicting Charles Darwin for sexism and racism, alerted me that one outfit, Grand Term papers, is selling a “adjudicate this issue” term paper.

Click on the screenshot to see the odious offer:

Here’s how you order. Mind you, they aren’t plagiarizing me: this particular form of perfidy involves a student taking credit for the work of a professional (?) writer. In other words, this is arrant cheating.  I have to say, though, that the topic is a good one for a student’s original paper.

And this is how they justify it:

What we Do

A majority of students suffer from demotivation, physical, mental or personal problems that can hurt their studies. In most instances, the source of stress is associated with a bulk of incomplete assignments with demanding turnaround times. Unfortunately, the lack of energy and non-prioritizing academic studies can hurt the results of any coursework. When all these factors accumulate, they can directly impact how an individual learns and put them under unnecessary strain. However, at, we have all the necessary resources to support students learn more deeply, perform better in their coursework and produce high-quality and well-researched academic assignments. We have a large team qualified in diverse subject areas and topics to assist you with all academic writings. To access our services, click here and make the first step towards a successful educational journey.

Note the “at”, suggesting that this is itself boilerplate copied from another source. The English is itself a bit wonky (“a bulk of incomplete assignments,” “make the first step” and so on). Perhaps they’re not written by native English speakers.

Since the writing is supposedly original, you can’t detect this by looking for plagiarism via Google. I’m not sure how one would find out that a student’s paper wasn’t written by the student, but I’m sure there are ways. Has anybody had any experience with this form of cheating? It rankles me a lot because it’s academic cheating.

45 thoughts on “Selling term papers

  1. This drives me bananas! When I taught 12th grade Data Management I assigned term papers which counted for 10% of the students’ final grades. I had two incidences of complete copying , including typos and misspellings, from other students from previous years (three of us taught the course). One kid even had the previous student’s name on the “footer” on page 2!! I had given plenty of warnings not to do this but our wimpy principal made me cut them lots of slack, This kind of cheating made me almost sick to my stomach. Have some self-respect, guys🙀

    1. A number of years ago, I gave up the fight and shifted to a model where the grade isn’t for the work itself, but for the oral defense. At this time, I teach engineering subjects primarily, so this is probably a moire-sound model, in any case.

      The change happened when an administrator dropped a case where I had the book plagiarized from, the students name on the sign-out card from the library for the relevant time (the cards traveled with the books), and the work with references that matched the refs from the book copied from, but for the wrong section.

      The admin: “Did he admit it?” no. So drop it.

  2. I teach a class where students write term papers on a subject that I choose. I did various things during the term that was aimed at complicating cheating (they had to hand in the paper, section by section, in installments. Most of the content was unique and could not be lifted from online sources, and they could not copy from previous semesters since the topics were different). One semester two students, who always sat together, were totally awol on handing in the installments. I repeatedly asked them about this, and they always deflected. At the end they each handed in unique and perfect papers. I mean they were beautiful. Now what could I do? I did not know of a way to prove that the papers were ghost-written, and I keep hearing tales where the academic standards committee would punt on cases that could not be proven. It was very distressful since I did not feel I had the tools to flunk them. So I gave them each a barely passing grade, since they violated my procedure which was clearly spelled out in the syllabus, and I waited for the fireworks. Nothing happened.

    1. I hope in the end that karma will catch up with such people, when they prove incompetent in the working world. But then plenty of incompetent people seem to have done very well.

      1. “But then plenty of incompetent people seem to have done very well.”

        One of them even became a one-term POTUS.

  3. I think the fraction of students who are there to learn has declined, while the fraction grows who are there simply for the credentials that are tickets to high paying high status jobs. This was predictable given the recent evolution of the job market – not that it does much to excuse the students.

  4. Cheating is more rampant than ever in higher education, facilitated by outfits like this. And it certainly got worse with remote and online teaching during the pandemic.

    It’s certainly demoralizing. But it’s all part of the larger way that the Internet is transforming the world. Perhaps the very concept of originality will become obsolete, as knowledge becomes more about finding information and resources as needed instead of learning and creating original work. But that just makes a world of ignorant and unoriginal people.

    1. The pandemic has certainly made this worse, with more than a year of online classes and online exams (!) Imagine teaching a large online class with 90 students. This is in itself ridiculous from a learning and teaching standpoint.
      Online exams are monitored thru a proctoring service where the student has their computer camera on them, and their screen is locked to the page with the exam. A ‘room check’ is done where the student scans the area with their cell phone camera, which is using a different app to do that. Its complicated.
      But they can still cheat with a little creativity, and there are YouTube videos that show them how to do it. I don’t think I had cheating, but honestly there are methods where I wouldn’t be able to tell.

  5. My favorite case of cheating occurred on an exam in a big general Genetics class. One student had copied answers from an excellent student nearby—I think in the next row of seats—but his copying had
    undergone a frameshift mutation: his question 3 had an excellent answer (that of the copied test) to
    question 2, question 4 had the answer to question 3, 5 the answer to 4, and so on all the way down.

    When I was a general Biology TA, in grad school, there was one splendid answer to a lab exam. The question showed a schematic cell, with some revealing feature like a chloroplast or a vacuole, and asked: “Is this a plant or an animal cell?” One student answered simply: YES. I gave that answer full credit, as the answer was quite correct: it wasn’t a battery cell, a fuel cell,, a spy cell, or a padded cell.

    1. It’s a pet peeve of mine that sometimes questions are framed as “can you explain/describe/prove …?”

      Frequently, for me, the answer would be “no” and yet I knew that I was unlikely to get full credit for answering the question as posed or honestly.

    2. “My favorite case of cheating…”

      My most interesting one was a guy who had an interesting pencil case with some little glass window in the otherwise metal case. He had written very tiny cheat sheets that were, as is, virtually unreadable in the case despite a normal window. But his glass was a magnifier! He could shuffle those notes around till the relevant one was under the window.

      He did indeed fail the course after I nailed him on this in a midterm. I had later made him sit right up at the front with me for the final, which was a debacle for him.

      It would ironic if he had later become a world famous geometry researcher. I’m pretty sure I’d know if that happened. As it is, I doubt he ever got the degree.

    3. “Is this a plant or an animal cell?”

      If the correct answer was ‘plant cell’, the student could have again appealed to logic and got full marks for the answer NO—after all, it was not a plant, and also it was not an animal cell.

  6. I guess this is the difference between wanting a credential and wanting the information. The university product (diploma) is more valuable to the students (customers) than education (apparently now only a by-product or even waste product). I suppose this is the natural outcome of the consumerism being injected into the university system. Of course this issue has always been there, especially at the secondary education level. I’m not sure there is anything you can do, especially with the invertebrates running the colleges being fearful of the consumer (formerly known as the student) and the potential loss of income…and we all know that cost per credit hour+student fees isn’t decreasing any time soon.

    1. I respectfully dissent.
      You are correct that universities HAVE indeed become more consumerist and less use, particularly from an educational perspective.

      But the problem PCC (E) describes – and it has been going on for quite a long time I think – is more to do with technology catching up with and empowering peoples bad ethics. Ethics don’t change but tech allows more people to have bad ethics.

    1. not useful for purchased work that was not plagiarized from an open source (purchased substantially original work), and not useful for most things that aren’t primarily text (including software). There are tools that are of some use for these cases, but none, as far as I know, are very good.

      They do provide a basic bar to jump over, but that is it

  7. I once substituted in Honors Biology (or AP, I can’t remember) for a teacher on maternity leave, following the teacher’s lesson plans and administering the tests she provided. The students were sitting at the typical tables with shiny black tops. During a test two students at the very back center table repeatedly wrote with pencil on the table surface and then erased what they wrote. I’m quite satisfied they were taking turns asking each other for answers to questions. I announced into the ether words to the effect I was contemplating the reflective and contrasting physical characteristics of graphite. Or some such thing. No doubt they thought me even nuttier than they usually did. But I think I got my message across. Being Honors, they all seemed quite capable. On one test not a few made 100 and many in the 90’s. One made a 78. She was dismayed. I noticed her writing on the table surface with her pencil. After the class was dismissed I looked at the table surface. She wrote that she hated me. Apparently it was my fault she did not do well on the test. Was it my “fault” that the others did well? Such occurences are “carrots” to prompt one to enter/continue on with teaching.

  8. What’s it pay these days, ghosting a term paper for some dunderhead college kid?

    Asking for a … well, you know.

  9. Yup. A close relative teaches Nursing and is very familiar with situations where a student turns in poor quality work, is warned they will fail the course, and suddenly hands in an academically-fine but emotionless essay that has nothing in common with the style etc of their previous work. The staff are basically ordered to turn a blind eye.
    Whether these students perform well after they graduate hasn’t yet been investigated.

  10. For term papers and ghost writing, a hypothetical solution would be to require the use of a word processing app that periodically saves a copy of the paper as its being drafted, complete with IP address information and an occasional webcam picture of the author.

      1. That would require unwelcome effort for some (many? most?) cheaters. I once set an assignment with a question that needed a several-line hand-written answer. One cheater I caught had copied another student’s text-edited answers to the other questions but left the hand-written one blank. I asked him why not copy that one also, and he told me it would have been too much work.

  11. A while back I was drawing a blank on finding some information for a paper, so I just started searching the exact phrases from that assignment to see what turned up. Lo and behold, I found someone trying to buy a paper for the same assignment for the previous fall semester on a paper mill site.

  12. Cheating and plagiarism is the bane of any academic’s existence. Our university has used Turn-it-in, or other variants of it for years. The program does a pretty good job of picking up strings of words in its database that have been used in other papers. I am sure you could do a whole series of posts with our “war stories” about plagiarized papers. One of my colleagues once had an Introductory Psychology paper where “Pavlov’s dog” had been changed to “Pavlov’s cat” (incidentally, Eddie izzard has a hilarious skit on “Pavlov’s cat” that can be found on YouTube quite easily). The student honestly believed that simple change now made their paper unique.

    Like many other folks on this forum, I’ve given up on term papers years ago. I attempt to assign papers that have unique writing prompts. I try to make it harder to cheat on a paper than to write the paper. For undergraduate work this is been a good solution.

    I agree with Paul, Christopher, and many others that this marks a sea change in the notion of education is moving from a process of learning to, having (not learning) a degree. University administrators feed into this notion by using specious markers like “graduation rates.” I was at a meeting where the idea of “graduation rates” was being touted as a marker of our university’s success. I brought up the counter idea of using “learning rates” as a marker. It was met with silence by the administrators, but I woke up a few of my colleagues.

    1. Gotta find Eddie Izzard’s Pavlov’s Cat video ASAP! Saw him live in Toronto maybe 30+ years ago at Yuk Yuks. He was not yet well-known and was the opening act. I laughed till I cried.

  13. I had no spending money in college, so my freshman year I charged $50-200 to write papers for people. We actually shared dorms with a nearby community college, and that’s where I got most of my “clients”.

    I stopped because of the extra workload, risk to myself, and some guilt (more the former I confess). It doesn’t surprise me at all that people make money of this today online..I never had a shortage of students asking me to do this.

    1. When I was in middle school I would ‘help’ classmates with their papers. In truth, I find writing to be very fun, especially if it is for someone else and I can get creative with a turn of phrase or two. In early high school (back in the younger days of ye olde worlde wide webbe) I set up some websites with ‘historical quotes’ – which I would then populate with a quote I made up – and then reference the site in my paper with the clever quote (it was an Alexander the III of Russia quote about wars and shots of vodka. I thought I was very, very clever). Luckily, that was the extent of my bad behavior. I never again ‘helped’ write a paper or made up a historical quote.

  14. I will forbear from relating my own war stories about undergraduate cheating, but will instead let one of the cheaters speak for themself (indented), with my responses to them flush left. Read it and mourn.

    In article [], wrote:

    To the Cheater Accusers (that know not what they say…):

    Those of us who purchase solution manuals, purchase them because we
    choose to while there is still freedom in choice. There will always
    be those of you who label free will choosers that do not choose to go
    with the masses by some form of negativity in a manner to get
    nonconformers to conform, such elementary names like “cheaters”.
    Although no one has yet written alongside such an accusation any known
    case where a person who has purchased a solution manual has used it in
    class while taking an examination (and even if one did that does not
    depict a true story for all)

    Actually, I expect that most of us believe that the seekers after
    solution manuals intend to use them for cheating on homework, not for
    cheating on exams. And consider that it would be one very poor exam
    that used verbatim questions from the textbook.

    – so you who are against us solution manual purchasers

    Actually, you and the rest are only ATTEMPTED purchasers of solution
    manuals. You yourself figured out that at least one of the alleged
    vendors of manuals is a fraud, in [].
    Congratulations, there may be hope for you yet.

    Note that the alleged solution-manual vendors
    * spam Usenet, targeting
    * students who want to cheat, offering
    * pirated copies of copyright works.

    Now ask yourself, isn’t it likely that such a person would also cheat
    their marks^H^H^H^H^Hcustomers?

    that now have the same tools that many of you have
    been provided with for years,

    The most useful such tool is to actually know the subject.

    are just plainly HATING the fact that we have evened-up the odds,

    Actually, we mainly hate the Usenet clutter. If you want to send money
    to some scammer than by all means go for it — no skin off my nose.

    therefore, due to your loses

    What exactly is it that you think we have lost?

    you choose to use slander,

    Where’s the slander? Do you honestly disagree that most attempts to
    purchase solutions are for the purpose of handing in those solutions as
    one’s own (a.k.a “cheating”)?

    hoping some other poor sole will listen and not purchase
    any solution manuals even though he/she knows aide is NEEDED, and even
    though it will definitely ENHANCE their education which is the SOLE
    purpose of attending these higher education arenas. We our the ones
    who are paying for our education and we obviously are not getting
    enough information from our Lecturers (Universities, Colleges, etc.),
    who only have about an hour a session and the rest is up to us – so we
    must due our duty to ourselves. So it is inevitable that we purchase
    the best tool for the task in gaining our education, which we find
    even better than a tutor and less expensive, at times, and learn at
    our own rate, while at the same time, learn correctly. Again, it is
    us (and when I speak of us, our parents our possibly inclusive in this
    “US”) who are paying for our education at the universities we attend
    and that funding we have choosen not to deplete while we make sure we
    understand the material to the utmost (fullest), whether it be by the
    instructor or solution manuals. Why should we sit back and let
    everyone else get the fruits, such as the lecturers, schools,
    financial institutions who getting paid whether we pass or NOT. After
    all, it is our money, our time, our choice, our lives and our
    education. We are the ones that will be graduating one day, and we had
    better be as best equipped as possible because with our college
    educational growth rate and the high unemployment rate, there is no
    guarantee what we all will be hired, so we better be equipped to go on
    OUR OWN if necessary. We all come from different backgrounds, so
    those of you who do not need solution manuals, dont buy them and leave
    us the HELL alone. So if solution manuals do not interest any of you,
    then find another thread to discuss an interest that does, but it is
    more than obvious that there is an enormous amount of students
    interested in studying correctly the first time so I deinitely find
    this to be the proper forum for such discussions. But I am sure, none
    of us that purchase solution manuals choose to pay any unnecessary
    money or time to repeat any course or pass without understading the
    materials to the best of OUR ability or we have then have FAILED
    OURSELVES which is primary. We are achievers by OUR choice.

  15. When I was laid off, the first – literally the first – work opportunity that the unemployment office sent to me was to write essays for a UK manufacturer of undergraduate papers.
    Every week after, the Dole sent me the same offer from the same company. The company offered about a tenner a page, so I’d need to set up a production line in order to make minimum wage. Eventually that subject line went into my spam filter – they may still be propositioning me.

  16. hi,

    I have not seen that type of cheating but recently come across a full professor who plagiarized her PhD thesis and the academic articles she published over a 20 year period. I called her out and her university (public) lawyers sent a takedown notice to wordpress and a threatened to sue me. I use a pseudonym because snitches get stitches.

    I highlighted her plagiarized passages and the originals on a onetime wordpress blog. I found it shocking that the experts and editors in the field who vetted and read her work never saw the plagiarism. I easily spotted her cheating from her changing syntax and from her copying a standard definition in the field.


  17. During the 1964-65 school year I wrote papers for a few other college students I knew. I guaranteed a B grade or their money back. The practice served me well. It still puzzles me what I thought I was doing. Since then I have never cheated on a paper or test for my benefit or the benefit of another. Years later I knew one person with a huge collection of papers and essays he would sell. I think the problem must be worse with the ubiquitous internet and computers and printers commonplace.

    This could have been some character flaw. I finally graduated in 1975.

  18. I’m reminded of the old tale in which a student realized that he couldn’t complete the symphony he was supposed to write for credit in his music course, so he went to the library, checked out the thing his teacher had written for the same course many years ago, and copied it—-but backwards. He got an F, which surprised him. He asked the teacher why, and the teacher responded: “That’s Beethoven’s fifth symphony.” 🙂

    1. Well I guess old Ludwig van didn’t do any post secondary, especially not after writing #s 1 to 4, so that student couldn’t have been him!!

      Disclaimer: I did get the joke, even if the above makes it look the opposite.

      Some of us old farts think that certain modern music might sound better played backwards.

  19. Whether apocryphal or not, I recall reading an anecdote once about a student who was busted for turning in a paper from a mill. The dead giveaway, which the Professor noticed, was a bibliography citation of a work that existed only in a location to which the student had no access.

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