In my last post, Guest what?, I described how I got intrigued by an article extolling the virtues of online essay writing services. It was posted on a website devoted to trashing the Royal Dutch Shell oil company. The article seemed so very out-of-place that I started investigating, both the gripe site itself as well as article.
Although the article, 10 Interesting Facts about Online Essay Writing Services, reads as if talking about essay writing services in general, it gives no names, no examples. There is, however, a single hyperlink to one of these services. It links to a site well worth looking at more closely. It might even be worth sharing and discussing with students, the better to put them off any temptation to use such sites themselves.
The underlined text links to a site called Advanced Writers .com. The very front-page of the site does not inspire confidence:
“Return your time back…” is not the best of grammar. Not the best of starts.
The site showcases five short essays, samples available for download from that front page. They are (supposedly) written at College, University and Masters’ levels. It is interesting that the title pages of these essays include spaces for the purchaser to add personal details prior to submission
because there are notes in the Terms and Conditions which prohibit users from passing off these papers as their own.
By submitting an Order and/or payment for a Product, you acknowledge and agree that:
we reserve the right to cancel any agreement, contract or arrangement with any person who condones or attempts to pass any Products as their original work….
You may not put Your name on any Product. All Products and/or any other written materials delivered by us to You are for research and/or reference purposes only. We do not condone, encourage, or knowingly take part in plagiarism or any other acts of academic fraud or dishonesty…
Honourable, these companies, aren’t they?
This strikes me as enticement, entrapment – inviting purchasers to add their names and other details to these essays, presumably to submit them as their own – but with this message in the small print to say this is a No-No.
[Doing so voids the contract. If you submit this as your own and plagiarism is discovered, you have no come-back, no cause for complaint. And if you submit the paper as your own and you are not found out, you have no complaint either if the paper gets a low score. It’s a win-win situation. For the company.]
It makes me glad that I did not spend $4320 (after discount) for a 20,000 word PhD thesis delivered inside 8 hours. I might not have got my money’s worth. That was close.
Five sample essays are available for scrutiny.
Now, most companies go to great lengths when advertising. They make sure that any samples they display or use in their advertising are the best available. They want to give really good impressions, this product is worth every penny. I am sure does Advanced Writers .com, they want to sell their product, their services too.
If the sample essays available are samples of this service at its best, I have to say that they do not inspire confidence. It could be a fun classroom exercise to give students copies of the five samples and ask them to assess them. When you show them where you found them, it might deter them from temptation for life – they’ll be warned off this kind of illicit assistance.
I particularly enoyed muddling my way through this university-level essay, on Erickson’s Psychological Health Assessment.
It’s a puzzle, right from the start. Here is the start, the opening paragraph:
Eagle-eyed readers may begin to wonder, is the essay on “Erickson’s Psychological Health Assessment” or is it “Erikson’s Psychosocial Health Assessment“? Erikson is mentioned three times in this essay, all in this first page. Erickson gets twelve mentions, twenty if you include the running heads.
Erikson or Erickson? Erickson is one of the co-authors of one of the two books referenced as well as featuring in the title, so you might expect this to be the correct spelling.
There’s a problem, several problems. In that first paragraph, we read
Erickson was able to do this due to the passion and compassion he had for people. His research was among human societies…
Note that “he” and “his”. The author JI Erickson’s full name is Jeanette Ives Erickson, and her profile page on the Massachusetts General Hospital website shows that she is definistely a “she” – not a “he.”
What is more, the book which is referenced, Fostering Nurse-led Care: Professional Practice for the Bedside Leader from Massachusetts General Hospital, is about nursing practice.
But the essay we are looking at is not about nursing, it is about child development.
Now there is an Erik Erikson in the world of psychology. Alas, his specialism was neither “psychological health assessment” nor “psychosocial health assessment” – as suggested in the essay’s first paragraph. His field was psychosocial health development, not quite the same. What’s more, he specialised in early infancy development – and this just happens to be the topic of the (so-called) Advanced Writer’s sample essay.
Am I jumping to conclusions? Could there be another Erikson (or Erickson) who actually did write about psychological health assessment, or even psychosocial health assessment? (Even if there is another Eri(c)kson who wrote about psychological and/or psychosocial health assessment, it is JI Erickson included in the list of references, not this possible other.)
It does seem more likely that it is the writer of the paper who has jumped to conclusions, not me.
And we haven’t even started looking at the essay itself.
Now, the author’s uncertain use of pronouns is worth a mention:
An overtired toddler during the day tends to be less active. The toddler’s response is according to what he or she hears, and he or she should learn his or her name, feeding himself or herself, and walking. If the toddler fails to respond to his or her name, he or she might have sensory problems. Masturbation is normal at this stage. The toddler tends to be cautious of his or her body and how it functions. At this stage, toddlers manage to hold onto their parents due to fear. They also tend to learn right and wrong from their homes.
Perhaps, when mentioning Erickson/Erickson in that opening paragraph, our writer should instead have written
Erickson was able to do this due to the passion and compassion he or she had for people. His or her research was among human societies…
The overtired toddler paragraph is taken from page 3 of the essay. Oh yes, that’s another point. None of the parenthetical citations in this (or any other of the five sample essays) includes a page number. It does not help one verify statements made on behalf of the authors cited. And it is not correct MLA or APA either.
Then there’s the point, by now hardly worth pointing out, that the parenthetical citations in this essay sometimes read “(Erickson, Jones, & Ditomassi, 2012)” and sometimes “(Erickson et al., 2012).” But who needs consistency? Or accuracy? Or correctness? Apart from teachers, examiners, editors, readers, etc etc? And purchasers of dubious essays from dubious services?
I really haven’t looked that closely at the essay – these are just some of the features which jump out at me on a cursory scan. Enough is enough.
We are not told how much the purchaser of this essay paid. I cannot help wonder how it was received by the instructor who assessed the task?
I should not really be surprised. Wendy Sutherland-Smith and colleagues at Deakin University, Australia, have carried out research which included a quality check on 54 university level essays bought from 18 contract cheating companies. When subject specialists graded the papers received, 52% failed even to get a pass mark. What is more, none of the essays scored highly, extra payment for premium services was no guarantee of premium service nor any indication of the quality of the writing. These and other findings are worth noting and discussing with students, further warnings against the use of these services.
There’s a lesson somewhere here. Take it to heart.
Sutherland-Smith, W. & Dullaghan, K. (2019, June). “You don’t always get what you pay for: A user’s experiences of engaging with contract cheating websites,” paper presented at the 5th International ENAI Conference “Plagiarism Across Europe and Beyond,” in Abstracts/ Proceedings, pp. 39-42. Available at http://academicintegrity.eu/conference/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/ABSTRACT-BOOK-2019.pdf
Sutherland-Smith, W. & Pitt, P. (2019, June). “Contract cheating: The promises, the
realities and opportunities for detection.” Seminar and Panel Discussion, University of Coventry, Handout, slide 5.