Student’s Cheating VS Academic Writing: an International Perspective on ‘Ghost Writing’

Like many people, I was shocked on the issue of students who are using custom essay writing services offered by different online companies. What surprised me most is the area of extension of this fraudulent activity and the cynical prospects of the situation.
Can you imagine that there is a whole industry being created around the writing of essay assignments? This situation requires serious discussion and analysis of this problem in higher education.

 Obviously, that student’s cheating through ordering of academic papers is caused by a combination of factors. First and foremost, it is poor ethics of students, who do not think that buying paper online is something awful. Moreover, it is poor ethics of academics who are working for fee on the sites like Secondly, the teacher’s low awareness and incapacity to determine the act of cheating and the ownership of the paper submitted by the student. Thirdly, new policy of increased class sizes made more difficult for teachers to trace individual work of each student. Therefore, the students feel free to cheat. And the last one, technology development is a factor of fast information transferring and rapid communication anytime and anywhere. So, anyone from anywhere can order any sort of a paper in one click. 

If you ask me is this only a problem of U.S.? I say no, definitely. Unfortunately, this problem bothers every English-speaking country. Paper writing services are available in many languages and at different prices. A simple search on Google produces hundreds of sites like offering these services. I saw many related information at universities in different countries. Sometimes I even saw announcements published in newspapers about firms or just individuals who offer a variety of custom services intentionally named writing coaching, academic coaching, proof-editing, and even more openly, writing of papers or dissertations. Maybe, this problem can disappear... However, I am afraid that no. It is a simple law of demand and supply. As long as teachers create a demand for custom writing services by setting written assignments, many students will be ordering papers, as they know that verification of students cheating is almost impossible task. Under these conditions, more and more companies will be operating on this prosperous market. 

 This situation is supplemented by the fact that the number of students in class has been increasing in the U.S. and there has been increasing demand for online education courses. The more people in the class – the lesser are the chance for better communication and supervision of students by the teacher. 

 Recent years ago, when I was a lecturer in the University of Phoenix, I understood that it is impossible to estimate each individual academic paper of my 400 students, so I used other types of estimation. A few weeks ago, I clearly remember my visit to University of South Africa, where an average size of a class counts 1300 students. When I questioned professors on how they estimate their students they just smiled at me. Their smile provided an obvious answer. 

 Can we really do something to solve this problem? Yes. Higher institutions must seriously instruct new students about which practices are not acceptable in the writing process. Some universities launches special courses where students can learn how to improve their writing skill and educate their students to understand the meaning of academic integrity and how student can achieve it by showing cases that are not acceptable. This must be an obligatory course for international students, as in many countries the limits and the notion of those terms are different. 

 Moreover, faculty members can and must do more at the classroom level. For instance, there is a simple way to find a cheater. Teacher just needs to ask to write an abstract on the paper in the classroom and then compare it with previous work that student had submitted. Additionally, teacher can require an improvised oral presentation in the class or to connect specific issue, the student has presented, in the test. Therefore, many different ways can be invented by faculty members to reduce this problem. However, teachers always have no time to provide these additional procedures. Another one option to minimize the desire of students to look for the outside help is to provide more realistic requirements and set up more in-class assignments.

 Let’s face the truths – some faculty members assign homework as if their class is one that student is taking. Moreover, teachers require that students read and research wildly substantial amounts of information, which ultimately will not be read. There is no chance that the student will produce a profound final paper well-connected to all the material he or she had to read. I am not saying that teachers need to reduce the amounts of tasks, but some of them need to be more realistic about their students. Volume does not mean quality.

 Then there are many international students who are studying in the U.S. in a second language. As we know, they are the main clients of custom writing services. Obviously, if universities accept students with limited language knowledge, student can expect that it is responsibility of the university to provide support for them. Within universities students foreign students must reach the minimum language proficiency standards. Also, institutions must establish appropriate filters to prevent excepting students who are not able to reach the minimum language standards. 

 Higher institutions cannot play a double role. On the one hand, increasing international student’s amount through lower language requirements and, on the other hand, doing nothing about them after their entrance. To sum up, better evaluation is needed! 

 In America, foreign students should prove a minimum level of English measured by a certain score on the TOEFL. Nevertheless, many academics are arguing that the TOEFL only partially estimates English knowledge. But I do not think that the establishment of sticker English requirements is better solution. Personally I think that the real case is not whether foreign student can write appropriately in English, but whether or not he or she can find information, form ideas, and build argument, even if it is in the students own native language. 

 Remember that language is merely a tool for the expression of the knowledge. I think that this taught situation is forcing us to place this issue on the discussion table. Are we ready for this discussion in U.S. higher education?