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Essays for sale – using paper mill sites

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Why is it a good thing to avoid using paper mills?

It may be easy to be seduced by the convenience of paper mills, particularly when you are under pressure. However, there are plenty of good reasons for avoiding unauthorized use and passing off their products as your own.

Educational reasons

  • It misses the whole idea of what education should be about – which is analysing other people's ideas, presenting them in your own words and articulating your own thoughts. If you avoid this work you will struggle at exam time as you will have little to base your revision on.
  • You lose the opportunity to develop the skills that essay writing brings.
  • Many of the essays are in fact plagiarized from other sources, and even if you submit a paper which is guaranteed by the paper mill to be "unplagiarized", you are still cheating in that you are passing off someone else's work as your own.
  • Sometimes, students download essays and use them as references. However, these essays are not authoritative academic documents: the sources they list may not be the best, or the most current:

"I have had naive students cite cheat sites and essay banks in their bibliography/reference list at the end of coursework. They are genuinely surprised when they are told that these are not seen as authoritative or, indeed, useful sources. They also misunderstand what is meant by 'plagiarism'. One of the sites even has the splendid phrase, 'Students don't want to waste their time doing all this research so we do it for them'. A student who is using someone else's research and passing it off as his or her own is as much plagiarizing as using someone else's words and passing them off as their own would be. Plagiarism is when you submit someone else's work (both in the noun and the verb sense of someone else's effort) as your own" (Jude Carroll, director of the Assessment Standards Knowledge Exchange (ASKe), Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, Oxford Brookes University).

Pragmatic reasons

  • You may well be caught – many lecturers are wise to the existence of paper mills, and 80 per cent of lecturers in the UK use the text-matching software (often called plagiarism detection software) Turnitin, which checks submitted documents against a vast database of billions of pages of current and archived material, and returns a report on the essay's originality.
  • Paying others to do your work can be expensive. If you take a cost of US$20 per page for a 12 page essay, that is US$240 – rather a lot for one essay. As ever, you get what you pay for: the cheaper options carry a high risk that the paper you are being sold is plagiarized from somewhere else, while some of the top of the range ghostwriting services charge over US$1,000 for a master's level essay.

Quality issues

  • Purchasing an "off-the-peg" essay is not like buying an item of clothing – what you are looking for is something very specific, and the paper mill may not have exactly what you want. For example, one search for an essay on Mozart's operas included essays comparing particular operas, as well as ones on Verdi's and Wagner's operas, and on Mozart's non-operatic works.
  • Paper mills make promises of quality – such as their writers are educated to master's level. Despite this, the end product is often disappointing and there can be little opportunity for redress.

In a joint investigation by the BBC and Professor Charles Oppenheim, an academic at Loughborough University, essays from a paper mill site which promised essays of guaranteed 2.1 quality were marked, and judged to be at a significantly poorer standard than claimed (Levinson, 2005).

Here are sample essays that we found – see if you can spot the problems markers might have with them:

  • "Marketing include 4 Ps for marketing mix that is product, place, price and promotion. Product is the good, which is the company want to manufacture. Place is the place where the company sell the product. Price is the value of goods in the society and promotion show products to customers, e.g. advertising, newspaper, etc." (Extract from "powerful" essay from ).
  • "The Byzantine Empire is the longest running empire in the history of man kind that ruled for over a thousand years." (Sample essay from ).
  • "The combined effects of the globalisation, the dematerialisation of economic activity, the acceleration of technological and social change, and the emergence of new trends toward a service society and the information age." (Sample term paper from ).