Avoid like the plague…

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It’s an ill wind, they say, an ill wind which blows nobody any good.

Covid-19 / coronavirus is spreading, more people are affected, the global death toll keeps rising, and at exponetial rates.  Businesses are closing, in some cases for good.  Parents are having to stay at home to look after children whose schools are closed. Stay indoors, do not go out unnecessarily, keep your distance, wash your hands.  The times are grim, the news is grim, we are all indirectly and directly affected (and if we aren’t affected yet, we will be).

The times are bringing out the worst in us, the times are bringing out the best in us.  While many selfishly rush to stockpile and the shops empty and more are happy to flout emergency regulations, we also see much that makes us proud : the selfless dedication of medical personnel and others in key services, new community awareness, measures of environmental recovery too.  These may be bad times but there is much that is good too, generosity and compassion..

Even cheat sites are playing their part. Well, one at least is. A special offer in the face of global catastrophe, InstantAssignmentHelp.com (hereafter called IAH) offers up to 50% discount on its services,

“services” which include assignment help, essay writing help,  proofreading and editing, custom essay writing, what else might you need?

A 4000-word IB extended essay in 30 days, yours for just over £82.00.  A 35,000 word PhD thesis in just a week, only £956.

As with many custom writing companies,  this one guarantees plagiarism-free essays. Many claim to run their custom-written essays through a “plagiarism checker.”  IAH does too. It claims to use Turnitin to check and guarantee a complete lack of plagiarism.

And what is more, they (claim to) include the Turnitin Report for free. Bargain!

Again, as with many custom essay writing companies, this one advises its customers against submitting custom-written work as their own. The No Plagiarism clause in the Terms and Conditions emphasises this:

  • All the documents we offer in the form of written materials should be used for research or reference purposes only.

and IAH reserves the right to cancel any agreement if the customer does pass off custom-written work as their own. Ethical, eh?

This is key in their business model: they offer the service so that, using their model answers, customers can learn to write your own essay on the same subject. As explained in the Fair Usage Policy page:

… our reference papers provide concise analysis, in-depth research, as well as opinions and views on a particular topic that you may never be able to come up with. They are the most powerful research tools available to students worldwide. So, you will be able to save your efforts and time that you invest in sorting through massive amounts of research material, coursebooks, and university documentation. Our model papers will serve as a guideline for you to think of a different point of view when creating your work and acquire the best knowledge.

That’s neat, isn’t it?  The papers provide model answers, to give ideas and to be used as springboards for students to do their own reading, their own research, their own writing. Use our essays to get you thinking, now go away and think of something different.

They even admit this is not an easy task:

Conducting your research and creating 100% original work will take a lot more efforts than simply submitting our reference paper as your work to gain academic credit. But, by doing so, you will get a thorough understanding of the given topic and prepare well for exams.

Don’t stop to wonder why, if the advice is that students research and write their own essays, why should they bother to engage the contract essay writing company?  Why not do this in the first place and cut out the middleman?

And of course, yes, every essay they write is written from scratch to individual order.  Definitely. It says so in the FAQs so it must be true.

Are your custom written papers committed to originality?

Yes, we provide guaranteed original work, and we never resell or republish the papers written especially for you.

It’s all very standard, very similar to so many similar services.

And like so many of these services, it’s rubbish, their statements, their claims, their promises of ethical help, their promise of first-class writers.  All rubbish.

Not quite all rubbish. 

It’s not quite all rubbish.  While many instructors would avoid mention of sites such as InstantAssignmentHelp.com for fear that students will be tempted to use them, I believe that close look at such sites, their twisted logic and self-justification, their language, their output (when samples are available) can persuade students of their short-comings, will help students understand that they are money-traps and traps in many other ways too.  Looking closely at these sites can make students aware, put them off for life.

This particular site boldly offers samples of their work so that potential users can appreciate just how good they are, what high quality work their writers produce.

The samples immediately available are incomplete. In order to read or download the full sample, you have first to register with the site.  This I did. I set up a Microsoft Outlook account using a fake name, fake details and a fake telephone number.  (Is this unethical, a breach of their terms and conditions? Perhaps. But I am glad I did, as I’ll be explaining.)

I registered with InstantAssignmentHelp using this real fake address, got a verification message (which I retrieved from the Outlook Junk folder), and was able to complete the registration process.  Now I was able to download some samples.

And, having downloaded half-a-dozen of their top-rated sample assignments, I think I have good appreciation of the quality of work which IAH provides.

I chose to look at samples in different areas at the high school level.

This one looks interesting, on the English Literature page: an assigenment (sic) on William Golding’s Lord of the files (sic).  Like that title, the language of the essay is excruciatingly painful:

Lord of the files is a  novel which has written by the William Golding.

Introduction

Lord of the files is that the novel which was written by the writer; William Golding. This book considered on the Group of British boys stranded on an uninhabited island and their disastrous attempts to govern themselves (Pettitt and et.al., 2017). This file explores the dark side of humanity and the savagery that underlies even the most civilized human beings. In the following assignment, the brief of this mentioned book has addressed. William Golding presents his very harsh view of humanity and humankind.

I have to wonder which one of the English Literature Experts wrote this piece?

The second essay I looked at, again at high school level, was a History essay, an Introduction to Literature of 20th Century.

This took my interest because it is the only History essay written, at any level, on the History samples page; I wondered too how a history of 20th century literature might differ when written from a historian’s perspective as against a literature perspective.

Unlike the English Literature page, there is no blurb so I had to dive in. Interesting!

Oddly, this essay chose to discuss only one work. Is that because this one novel is representative of all the literature written around the world in the 20th century?  Hey, guess what!  The book chosen to represent all 20th century literature is (roll of drums…) William Golding’s Lord of files (sic sic).

This essay begins:

Discussion of a Book “Lord of files”

Introduction to Literature of 20th Century

William Golding has been written the Book that is Lord of files which represent the difference between civilisation and savagery. This book is considered on the Group of British boys stranded on an uninhabited island and their disastrous attempts to govern themselves. This file described depth knowledge and understanding about savagery and civilisation which have relationship with human being. In the following assignment, the brief of this mentioned book has been addressed. William Golding presents his very harsh view of humanity and human kind.

I wonder which of the three History experts wrote this?

The first two essays I looked at are similar but not completely identical. They are similar enough for thoughts of “plagiarism” to surface.  My goodness, are the writers of these allegedly plagiarism-free essays plagiarising from each other?

Here’s page 3 of “The Novel Assigenment,” with direct matches to the text of “Literature of 20th Century” highlighted:

I have not marked phrases which are (usually clumsy) paraphrases of the other, near-direct copying but not quite. If I had, there would not be much of the page which was not highlighted.

Both essays include plenty of in-text and parenthetical citation, such as “According to the view of Qurashi and et.al, …” and “(Dun and et.al,. 2017)”   which gives the essays a scholarly look – at first glance.   Different statements are cited in the two essays, and not everything cited in the one essay is cited in the other.  The lists of References of the two essays are similar, but again not identical.  The History essay includes five entries, although there are several citations in the text which are not included in the list of References; the English Literature essay comprises nine entries – five of them identical to those listed in the History essay.

What is interesting, fascinating, about both sets of lists is that neither of them include any sources which critique Lord of the files, nor even Lord of the flies – the actual title of the book.  All of the texts referenced are scientific or medical texts.  They are genuine works (at least, the three I looked up are genuine works); they just have nothing to do with the text under discussion.

You might have noticed earlier, an extract from the sites FAQs, in the How should you use … section:

    • Find the sources mentioned in the paper provided by us and review them.
    • Use these resources to conduct further research and gather more relevant information.

That would not get you far, would it, if you really were using the plagiarism-free model essay and sources to inspire your own writing on this topic?

I’ll not wade through the other papers which I downloaded from the site. Suffice it to say, they would not score well if submitted for assessment. But of course, nobody would be submitting any essays or assignments supplied by this company; to do so would be a breach of the Terms and Conditions, it would be plagiarism and breach of copyright.  You would only be using your expensive custom-written essays as inspiration, a springboard to your own research.  It’s hard work, as those T&Cs say, but it is worth it; it would be your own work and you would learn from the experience.

I have a thought. Why not save time and money – and your reputation? Why not cut out the middleman and just do your own work right from the start?

An additional word of warning

When using the IAH site, as one moves from page to page an irritating pop-up pops up: Assignment Help, Live Support, let’s chat, Can we help you with an assignment or essay?  They want my business.

When I went to log out of Outlook after my first session, I found five more email messages in the Junk folder, all from IAH.  I moved them to the Inbox (because I know that Outlook deletes junk after a couple of weeks), intending to look at them later.

A few days later, after writing most of this article, I went back to the IAH website for additional screenshots.

And I made the happy (???) discovery that, on the page showing ALL sample English Literature available (as against just high school level), there is a sample undergraduate essay on 20th century literature which focuses on, surprise surprise, William Golding’s Lord of files.

The section headings are not quite the same as those of the History essay, but the text is.  It is identical.

Assignment on 20th century literature

Introduction

William Golding has been written the Book that is Lord of files which represent the difference between civilisation and savagery. This book is considered on the Group of British boys stranded on an uninhabited island and their disastrous attempts to govern themselves (Pettitt and et.al, 2017). This file described depth knowledge and understanding about savagery and civilisation which have relationship with human being. In the following assignment, the brief of this mentioned book has been addressed. William Golding presents his very harsh view of humanity and human kind.

It would seem that a high-school level History essay can also be submitted as an undergraduate English literature essay. Or is it the other way around?

And hey, at least two of those guaranteed plagiarism-free essays are close to 100% plagiarized – or self-plagiarized.  (I can say that, given that the near identical high-school History and the undergraduate English Literature essays are shown as by different experts.) (If you can believe anything on this site.) (And hey, didn’t someone mention Turnitin?)

These samples are what IAH showcases as exemplary work, come on and buy.  Caveat emptor, says I; exemplars these may be, but they are far from exemplary.

It could be, of course, that IAH does not expect close scrutiny of these samples.  So here is an additional caveat:  I wanted to download the full undergraduate English Literature essay to check whether it is fully identical with the history essay, beyond the half which is publicly available.  Alas, I could not log in, I had not made a note of my IAH password.  But there is a Forgot Password link on the IAH site so I gave my fake email address and went to Outlook to retrieve the link.

I could not get in:

The message reads:

Your account has been locked.

We’ve detected some activity that violates our Microsoft Services Agreement and have locked your account.

It seems that I have violated the 41-page >15,000-word Microsoft Services Agreement, though exactly what activity it is that triggered the lockout, I do not know.  Maybe it was signing up in a false name? More likely, I think, it could have been messages generated by InstantAssignmentHelp – or parties with which they share my data – which triggered the lockout.

In my last article, None too advanced (in which I took a close look at the output of a different custom essay writing site),  I referred to the work of Wendy Sutherland-Smith and her colleagues at Deakin University.  Their investigations confirm that custom essay writing companies are known to use heavy tactics to intimidate or use forceful persuasion on their customers;  contract cheating sites have also been known to blackmail their customers into buying more services and/or threaten to (and carry through the threat of) informing educational institutions that named students have used their services.

Is this why that Outlook account was closed, is there a connection here?  Was my account bombarded with spam and more?  This certainly makes me glad that I did not use my actual email address.

Last thoughts

Students do need to be made aware – few custom essay and contract cheating sites produce quality work and may have heavy consequences.  Students are better off writing their own work.  It cannot be as bad as that produced by some of these sites – and even if it is, they can save themselves a fortune (and save their reputations too) by cutting out the middle-man and doing the work themselves.

Another of Sutherland-Smith and colleague’s other findings was that very few of the contract cheating sites they investigated produced quality work;  most “services” produced mediocre work which would not receive high marks or grades if submitted for assessment.

Not uconnected, it is commonly said that one of the tell-tale signs that students may be plagiarising is when the standard of their work shows sudden improvement (also when standards of writing change in the course of a single piece of work).  That may be one of the ways to discover if students have been copy-pasting from published work or employed someone else to do the work on their behalf.  We must be careful:  if mediocre students produce mediocre work, we are less likely to be suspicious – but we should not drop our guard.

I am not suggesting that we must be suspicious of every student; I am suggesting that mediocre students may need as much care and support as their more able peers and it may be more difficult to work out just what kind of help they need if the mediocre work they submit has been written by someone else.

A bleak thought on which to finish. But these are bleak times.

Stay safe.

References

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.

 

 

 

5 thoughts on “Avoid like the plague…

  1. Excellent work, a hilarious read which turns darker and darker…. I would use this article with my students, and indeed recommend for them to leave the middle man out, and do the (excellent or mediocre) work themselves. 🙂

  2. As usual, right to the point John! I went from laughing to been outraged. Love the humor you put in this dark article. Just for fun, I googled “Steve Ball”, one of the English Literature Experts, the first entries were of Steve Ball “The Love Island contestant and plumber [who] reckons his “teeth and body make him stand out” https://www.radiotimes.com/news/2017-06-30/who-is-steve-ball-the-love-island-contestant-and-plumber-reckons-his-teeth-and-body-make-him-stand-out/
    You should look at his images also. Anyway, maybe he asked the Lord if he can use his files to produced his essays. I think that could be pretty legit.
    Thanks John. This article should be sent to all students in high school and college, struggling now to finish their school year. I bet they can produce better essays than Instant Assignment Help. I thought that the bibliography was an insult to humanity. And that they threat students afterwords? Pretty scary. Looks like a bunch of mafiosos.

  3. Thank you both, Marion and Pia, for your appreciation of the article, and a special thank you, Pia, for the extra detective work.
    This may, of course, not be the Steve Ball who writes for AIH. The AIH’s Writers biog states that their Steve Ball says, “I am a Ph.D. certified English Literature professional having an experience of more than fifteen years.” That’s quite an experience, I wonder what it is/was? I hope it’s an enjoyable experience. <https://www.instantassignmenthelp.com/writers/steve-ball>

    You set me looking more deeply. Daniel Malcott claims “I hold a Master’s degree in Historical Science and now assists the University students.” That’s not a degree course that I know of which must make this writer extra special. I wonder how he “assists the University students”? Not with their grammar, obviously. <https://www.instantassignmenthelp.com/writers/daniel-malcott>

    I haven’t looked at other “biographies”. Yet. There could be a new blog post here!

    John

  4. Fascinating – and, sadly, amusing – read, John. Thank you again for your thoughtful blogs which I always learn from! I am intrigued by the third History expert ‘Norman Gray’ in the screenshot in your blog, whose expertise arises from “…teaching Biology…”!

  5. Thank you Sarah.
    Yes, I wondered about that as well.
    It could be that Norman Gray’s role is providing lists of References for others to use (re-use / plagiarize), regardless of their subject?
    John

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