Essay mills aim to help students dodge plagiarism checkers

Websites launch new services as they aim to stand out in an increasingly crowded market

April 13, 2019
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Essay-writing services are launching new resources for students, such as tools to help “paraphrase” sentences and beat plagiarism checkers, in an attempt to stand out in an increasingly crowded market.

Edubirdie, an essay-writing service that paid hundreds of YouTube stars to promote its services, has created a paraphrasing tool in what it described as a bid to become a “one-stop shop” that helps students complete their work so they can “enjoy life”.

The tool allows students to paste a section of text into a box and then select synonyms they can substitute to avoid accusations of plagiarism.

This may allow students to get around plagiarism-detection tools such as Turnitin, which checks submitted work against its database of essays and the content of other websites, with the aim of identifying copied work.

Edubirdie’s website claims that the tool is aimed at easing the problems associated with inadvertent as well as intentional plagiarism.

“How many times have you faced unpleasant situations getting a paper from teacher with the mark ‘contains plagiarism’? Some students copy ideas from other writers’ works,” the website says. “However, there are those who may use paper as an example and memorise main thoughts so that they do not intentionally repeat them when creating their own essay. Every student would like to have a paraphrasing tool that helps find synonyms quickly and effectively.”

Speaking generally, Thomas Lancaster, a senior teaching fellow at Imperial College London, said that many essay-writing services were offering additional services, particularly the longer-established sites.

“Essay mills are offering all sorts of additional free services now to hook students in to use them. There’s a lot of money in contract cheating for the companies involved, but it’s also really competitive,” Dr Lancaster said.

Essay-writing services were also hoping to gain traffic from using the keywords that students seeking help with an essay would use in online searches, Dr Lancaster explained; so if a student searched for “how do I find Harvard reference”, they might find a page on an essay-writing website or a free tool offering to help them.

However, students might be best advised not to rely too heavily on such a tool. In 2014, Times Higher Education reported on “Rogeting” – the creation of meaningless phrases through the thoughtless and ill-considered use of Roget’s Thesaurus, generally to hide plagiarised material.

Chris Sadler, a business lecturer at Middlesex University, reported finding the phrase to “stay ahead of the competition” transformed into the quaint “to tarry fore of the conflict”, while “new market leaders” was converted to “modern store guides”.

His favourite Rogetism, however, was a rendering of the phrase “left behind” as “sinister buttocks”.

Avery Morgan, Edubirdie’s senior editor, told THE that the tool was part of an effort to make the site the “go-to source for students and academics” but emphasised that its results should “serve only as a guide” for essays and should not be submitted as the final product.

She added that “students should enjoy this new feature when they are looking to boil down written material to its core importance…EduBirdie’s goal is to allow people the opportunity to enjoy life and focus on one’s passions and priorities, even when work gets in the way.”

anna.mckie@timeshighereducation.com

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