Students Run After Ghostwriters

Martin Croucher
Filed on February 17, 2009

DUBAI - University students who find English too challenging are paying ghostwriters to pen their
academic essays.

Khaleej Times has obtained an interview with one such writer who said that he is most often paid to write essays from the scratch by students who have difficulty expressing themselves in English.

Rajesh, who goes under the name ‘Emirates Essays’ on Facebook, said he gets around a dozen students a term who approach him to write their essays, normally for a fee of around Dh3,000 per piece.

“Some people do not agree with the help I provide and believe the students should be doing this on their own,”
he said.

“However, I have met many professionals in high positions who get their speeches and presentations written for them. It does not mean the person does not know the information, but time constraints or weak writing skills enter into the equation.”

Universities, however, regard having a third party write essays for students as a form of plagiarism, and such students can often be disqualified from their courses if they are found out.

Chris said students who work full time while at university also often seek help in writing their essays as
time is limited.

However, for essays which are less than 24 hours away from deadline, Rajesh charges an extra fee.

“Many students support themselves through university or college and the time it takes them to research, plan, develop and write the essay is normally a significant chunk that they cannot afford,” he said.

“Alternatively, there are many women in the country who want to get married and have their degree to fall back on. Most of these women do not want to become the manager of a fortune 500 company, they just want the personal gratification their degree offers, which I help them with.”

Rajesh said his specialism is business and marketing and that “his” essays are often graded with ‘A’s or distinctions.

Many universities use Turntin, a web site which scours the Internet for whole sentences that have been copied and pasted into the article, to
identify plagiarism.

“I always write from the scratch,” said Rajesh. “I take each assignment as its own and even if it were two friends in the same class, I would write the essays from a different perspective so that the friends would have no problems
when submitting.”

Many students at universities in Dubai agree that they take the easy way out when it comes to assignments. “I have picked up essays (from the Internet) for my English class a couple of times,” said a student who is currently pursuing a course at the Academic City, Dubai. “I haven’t been penalised yet, but maybe that’s because I edit them before submitting,” he added.

Students said that sometimes deadlines are inflexible and that puts added pressure to deliver. “If I don’t give the assignment on time, I will have to face low grades. There are no deadline extensions, so I find myself copying and pasting paragraphs from various articles to create my essays,” said another student in Academic City.

Soukaina Aouita, a medical student at the University of Seychelles American Institute of Medicine in Dubai, said that in her field, it is quite hard to cheat. “Medicine is a field where we have to memorise a lot. Though a copy-and-paste work will get us good grades, it won’t help us to save lives in the future. So I avoid it altogether.”

However, she has seen her friends submit plagiarised material to
get top grades.

Muhamed Osman Al Khalil, Associate Professor, Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures, Michigan State University, Dubai, said: “There can be no true creativity by cheating. To educate students to avoid cheating is integral to protecting knowledge.”

(With inputs from Afshan Ahmed)

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