Whistleblowers: Bespoke cheat service makes 'risk free' claim

January 31, 2003

Businesses that help students to cheat their way through university are already outsmarting the national plagiarism detection service launched this month.

One UK-based service boasts on its website that the essays it provides for students to pass off as their own "cannot be detected by national plagiarism detection tools".

Apparently unperturbed by The THES 's exposé of her failed university career and her false claims to a PhD, Elizabeth Hall has stepped up her internet-based plagiarism service for students, promising "undetectable cheating".

The Joint Information Systems Committee launched its Plagiarism Advisory Service, based at the University of Northumbria, this month.

Set up in response to an apparent explosion of internet-based cheating, where thousands of pre-written essays at all academic levels are available to download and copy, the JISC service hosts a free "electronic plagiarism detection service". The software checks students' submitted work against a massive database of essays available on the internet.

The software provides a colour-coded "originality report", colouring text that has been lifted from other sources and where inadequate references or acknowledgement have been made.

But the internet cheats have raised their game, with services offering bespoke, custom-written essays that cannot be detected. Ms Hall, who sells essay-writing services for as much as £60 an hour through her website, boasts her work is immune from software checks.

Dispensing with the euphemisms that she used to employ to describe her work, her website is now much more explicit. She claims to offer "the only UK-based customised academic writing service" that "delivers coursework assignments and dissertations, securely, confidentially and undetected".

She says: "Because this service is provided solely to and for you it can not be detected by using the plagiarism detection facilityI You will not find your work anywhere else on the internet, nor can it be submitted by another student at another university. This is the ultimate high-quality, bespoke service."

Her new "MBA rescue" service offers to "re-work or write your dissertation and all course work to your specific requirementsI Our customized MBA assignment and dissertation writing service is undetectable cheating."

In the US, literaturepapers.com provides custom-written essays for just $7.95 (£4.80) a page. "We guarantee that our term paper will not be available in any database online," it says.

Papersinn.com, another US-based site, boasts that its essays are "100 per cent custom written for you".

Fiona Duggan, manager of the plagiarism advisory service, said the JISC detection system was not designed to detect the kind of bespoke essays sold by Ms Hall. "The JISC detection facility is intended to highlight instances of plagiarism due to the incorporation of material from electronic sources of information without acknowledgement of the source," she said.

But Dr Duggan strongly disputed Ms Hall's assertion that her cheat service was "risk free". "The advisory side of the service is intended to help lecturers prevent plagiarism occurring by a number of means, which include purchasing essays from services such as that provided by Ms Hall. We provide advice and guidance to academics on how to, for example, 'use assessment to check authenticity' or 'create a collaborative climate'.

"The actions suggested in our good practice guides are likely to result in either discouraging purchase of an essay in the first place or, failing that, the discovery of a 'purchased' assignment, and, therefore, would dispute the claim made on Ms Hall's website that use of her service is risk free.

"Misrepresenting the work of another as your own is defined as academic misconduct by all university and college regulations and will always involve the risk of discovery and punishment whether this is by electronic methods such as the detection service, or by reliance upon good, old-fashioned common sense," Dr Duggan said.

Ms Hall declined to comment, but has previously claimed that she was responding legitimately to market demand.

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