One of my favourite classroom activities is to invite students to look at and critique selected custom-essay-writing sites. At first I wondered about the value of this exercise, whether it drew students’ attention to their existence rather than frightening them off. But I am sure students would find these sites anyway, and it seems better to demonstrate their shortcomings in a relaxed manner than to have students miss those shortcomings in the panic of a deadline due.
Over the years, cheat sites and paper mills have changed their tactics and the services they claim to offer. I put this down partly to increased educator awareness of their existence, partly to the growth of online text-matching services such as Turnitin and SafeAssign – and other factors too.
Once it was common for cheat sites to boast that they helped students “cheat the system,” as evidenced by the very names of sites such as Cheat.com and SchoolSucks.com. Now it is common for such services, and especially paper mills, to claim that they offer sample essays to guide students; they often claim that the essays are guaranteed plagiarism-free, while also stating that submitting these essays for assessment is plagiarism and this breaches terms and conditions, so any and all guarantees are void.
This week I discovered a new site, interesting on several counts. It seems to combine the old- and the new-style of cheat site and paper mill combined. I won’t give PaperAssistance.co.uk the dignity of a live link, I am sure you can figure it out. Its public face is possibly the worst of all the paper mills I have come across, certainly recently. If, like me, you have a warped sense of humour, you will find this site a true delight – and one which might provide a lifetime deterrent for your students too.
The home page is definitely in the old style: “Catch me if you can” it trumpets, along with a flow-chart suggesting alternative activities for the over-active student: get the assignment in class, place your order with PaperAssistance, enjoy a sports experience with a friend, go out with a girl-friend, enjoy a party, and then download the order minutes before the paper is due, 1st-class honours!! It’s as easy as that, “Catch me if you can.”
And while the student is out enjoying himself, there is allegedly a staff of more than 90 subject experts working day and night to ensure that our party-going slap-happy student gets the paper he has bought: success guaranteed –
– although the “Conditions of use” do suggest that the only guarantee is guarantee of delivery inside the time agreed!!!
Also note, repeated on every page of the site:
Disclaimer: Our model essays are designed as a guidance tool to assist students in preparation of their own projects. Students are prohibited from turning in all of the example projects as their own.
So our student still needs to write his own essay. Presumably in the minutes between receiving it, and the assignment deadline. There’s £600 well-spent (for a guaranteed 2nd class undergraduate dissertation delivered inside 48 hours).
Very properly, PaperAssistance does not like cheats, of any kind. It is not just plagiarism that they (claim to) abhor. They particularly dislike bad payments, students who pay with a stolen credit card. It is good to know just how ethical this company is:
Note: Use of stolen credit cards is strictly prohibited and is considered a serious crime. We work in close collaboration to fight cyber crime and make sure that all fraudulent orders are reported to the Federal and State Agencies.
(A careful reader might think, this is not UK terminology! It won’t surprise to discover that the co.uk site is almost exactly the same as the .com site; the main points of difference are the pricing, and the background colour scheme.)
So, what does our fun-loving student get for his money?
A piece of work that is “compliant,” and a “compliance report” to prove it. It’s possible, though it isn’t stated explicitly, that the check is to see that the essay does not include any plagiarised passages.
A piece of work that is proof-read and checked for grammar too! It’s a pity that the web site itself was not proof-read, checked for spelling and grammar errors!
It is, for instance, worth remarking that the very name of the company is spelled wrongly at least 8 times and in at least 3 different ways, misspelled five times in one clause in the T&C
And our student gets, the icing on the cake, be it an essay, a thesis, a dissertation, a research paper, or one of many other kinds of assignment, the work can be written in any desired “format” – including MS Excel.
The writers are said to be “native speakers” – and I am sure they are. Everyone is a native of somewhere. A WHOIS search on Niminet shows that the company is registered in Panama City, even if the server is based in UK <http://www.nominet.org.uk/whois/lookup?query=paperassistance.co.uk>.
Furthermore, the company claims to have been in business for 5 years, and to be the first choice for thousands of students. These claims may be slightly exaggerated, given that the web site has been registered for less than one year (Nominet shows that it was first registered 5 July 2012).
The spelling, the English, the grammar are all suspect, all flawed.
All in all, this is not a site to recommend (not that I would recommend any custom-essay site) – other than for its possible usefulness as a warning? Unless, of course, our party-going, fun-loving student enjoys the risk of being caught twice, once spending money on this company’s product, and then caught a second time, this time by his instructor?