If you’re in university at the moment, and wanted to buy an essay, I was under the impression that the best you could do was to procure an off-the-shelf, pre-written one. As it turns out, you can order customized essays on any subject for US $19.99 to $42.99 a page:
In a previous era, you might have found an essay mill near a college bookstore, staffed by former students. Now you’ll find them online, and the actual writing is likely to be done by someone in Manila or Mumbai. Just as many American companies are outsourcing their administrative tasks, many American students are perfectly willing to outsource their academic work.
It’s nice to know that, if everything else goes south, one could always make okay money writing somebody elses’s Psych 101 paper.
Incidentally, it’s this kind of journalism–long term projects that require a lot of dogged investigation and research–that’s most at risk with the downfall of newspapers.
The Editors’ Association of Canada, with which I’ve been involved over the years, has a whole set of guidelines about editing papers and theses (mostly at the doctoral university level), but the central message there applies further down the line too:
“…the editor should not specify changes that go beyond simple correction of grammar, idiom, punctuation, spelling, and mechanics and should be particularly careful in applying […] stylistic editing standards…”
Of course, I’m sure none of the essay mills, especially those subcontracting to India or elsewhere, are following ethical standards set for Canadian editors.
Maybe the new meaning of a Master’s will be that you’ve successfully coordinated a remotely-based research team to crunch numbers in SPSS and written up the results in an interesting fashion.
Or maybe those long-term investigative journalists who’ve been laid off can make some dough faking up people’s thesis papers.
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