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Your Guides to Excellent Writing

“Plagiarism-free” papers? Don’t buy it.

by Stephen Wilbers

Author of 1,000 columns
published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune & elsewhere

 

 

Some of the queries about advertising on my website are circumspect in describing their “educational product.” Others are unapologetic:

 

“I’m a manager of some custom writing services which provide students with custom written essays and research papers. I would like you to place a text link at homepage or inner pages of your website.”

 

Still others are crass: “I need to advertise an essay writing service . . . Are you interested in putting my link (education related service) at homepage or inner pages FOR MONEY?”

 

What these companies are offering is “plagiarism free” papers written by “professional writers” for students to download, perhaps edit, and submit as their own work – which of course is the very definition of plagiarism.

 

One company’s website offers a handy feature that calculates your cost, which ranges from $10 per page for a 14-day deadline to $25 per page for an 8-hour deadline, and from $10-$25 per page for high school level work to $27-$48 per page for doctoral level work.

 

How convenient for the hurried, harried, and dishonest student (or business writer) who is willing and able to pay.

 

Plagiarism, as defined by the University of North Carolina, is “the deliberate or reckless representation of another’s words, thoughts, or ideas as one’s own without attribution.”

 

I might have offered my own definition – maybe something like plagiarism is presenting another person’s work as your own, or plagiarism is cheating – but I liked UNC’s precise wording, so I used their definition word for word. And I cited my source.

 

In A Writer’s Reference, Diana Hacker defines plagiarism as “(1) failing to cite quotations and borrowed ideas, (2) failing to enclose borrowed language in quotation marks, and (3) failing to put summaries and paraphrases in your own words.”

 

The only exception, she points out, is “common knowledge,” which she defines as “information that your readers could find in any number of general sources because it is commonly known.”

 

Curious about the quality of these “custom written essays and research papers,” I checked out a sample essay on the topic of whether animals should be kept in zoos. The second sentence reads, “Recent tragedies, like the one at Sea World in Orlando, Florida, where a trainer was dragged to her death by a whale, has increased continued scrutiny on the needs of wildlife and how captivity hinders their physical and psychological well-being.”

 

Recent tragedies . . . has? (See subject/verg agreement.) There were other problems as well, including the nonsensical statement, “Furthermore, zoo animals suffer from freedom to move and to socialize.”

 

When I wrote to this particular essay factory, “I don’t accept ads from unethical companies. If your company is writing papers that students turn in as their own work, you’re providing a dishonest service,” I received this reply:

 

"Maybe you are right. Maybe no. But people who work with us are better writers. They writing for business and pleasure. There are a lot of situation when student haven’t enought time or skills do their homework. Then they use our service. Regards, Mike.”

 

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