An investigation by Leeds Student has found that the University has no fail-proof way to detect whether students have bought their essays online.
Current technology can only detect when content has been submitted elsewhere. If a student bought an essay never previously submitted, it could go unnoticed. Talking to Leeds Student a spokesman for Turnitin Software said: “Turnitin will always give an original essay a clean score.”
Sellers contacted by Leeds Student all offered assurances that their essays were original and never resold. “Your work will be 100% non-plagiarized,” confirmed one site, Writing Help UK.
Prices on websites examined by Leeds Student ranged from £10 per page of 2:2 standard essays, to over £1,000 for an overnight, First Class dissertation.
Philosophy students, whose final year is entirely coursework based, could buy a First Class degree from approximately £6,100. Will Murray, Vice President of the company that supplies Leeds’ anti-plagiarism tool, also confirmed that no plagiarism warning would be triggered in essays containing material never before submitted. Current software scans essays for phrases in common with a database of over 220 million previously submitted essays, 125 million academic articles, and 32 billion web pages. If a purchased essay is not in this database, no plagiarism alert will be raised.
However, Murray warned students: “the risk of being caught is still very high. They can’t guarantee that essays supplied will stay original. This is the real problem. If a student buys an essay from one of these sites, and the original author decides to sell it again, Turnitin will bring up both copies when it is submitted again. Who wants that possibility hanging over them? The risk simply isn’t worth it.” All websites contacted by Leeds Student “guaranteed” that their essays would be undetectable to plagiarism software. Writing Help UK promises “We will be sending you a plagiarism check report along with your work so you can have complete faith in us”. “We have customers all over the globe and they never got caught, no one ever,” stated a sales representative of Essay Inn. Many websites offered money-back guarantees, should their essays be detected as plagiarised.
On their ‘Skills@Library’ website, the university define plagiarism as “Presenting someone else’s work, in whole or in part, as your own”. When questioned on this issue the University declined to comment. India Grant, a second year History and English student, said that though buying essays offers a way to cope with a “stressful and demanding” workload, it “demeans the value of a degree”. Joseph Jones, a second-year Politics student, said that he might consider buying an essay, “if it was relatively cheap and guaranteed to be good and original. I would have no problem with it.”
Words: Max Bruges
Photo: Leo Garbutt