Pay for an essay? Academic dishonesty is a thing!
To tackle copying and pasting chunks of text from multiple online sources for academic essays, to students buying tailor-made papers online, universities are keeping an eye out for plagiarism
Nowadays, a quick search online can usually provide an answer to any question. But when Khaleej Times secured the promise of a "handwritten, tailored essay" online within just 30 minutes, it's easy to see how the trend of academic dishonesty is causing concern for universities here.
This practice - which has become more dominant as technology has advanced - is a 21st century issue, which has the potential to breed a generation of 'e-cheaters'.
From simply copying and pasting large chunks of text from multiple online sources for academic essays, to students buying tailor-made papers online, universities are trying to stay ahead of the game by introducing plagiarism technology.
But with various online essay-writing sites promising "fresh content ... 100% plagiarism-free", it has proven difficult to monitor the practice.
KT goes undercover
Posing as an undergraduate business student here, this reporter submitted a request to several Dubai-based online essay-writing services, asking for a 2,500 word essay to be completed within 10 days.
After supplying a detailed overview of the content required, including an essay question and preferred reference list, two consultants responded within just 30 minutes - one via phone and another via email.
Both responded with a cost estimate, and one with full bank deposit details.
"We will try our best to satisfy you with our work. Your requested work can be done by June 1 and it would cost Dh600. Kindly make the payment via bank transfer/ATM transfer by using below details to confirm your order," the email read.
And the second estimate, which came via a telephone consultation, for the exact same content and deadline proved a little pricier. Charging 80 fils per word, the consultant said the essay would cost Dh2,000, with "amendments or changes following handover" at no extra cost.
She then proceeded to follow up with a Whatsapp message pinning the location of the office for payment.
When both were asked how they could assure the copy would be original content, free of plagiarism, the phone consultant said a full report via a well-known "proofreading and plagiarism-detection resource" website would be sent with the completed essay. The second did not provide a response.
However, both did assure that a "non-disclosure agreement for confidentiality" could be signed if preferred.
When it came to payment, one website asked for the full amount upfront via bank transfer, and the second asked for a 50 per cent down payment to start, with the remaining 50 per cent paid on completion.
Universities need to fight 'contract cheating' together
dubai - Computers and the Internet have made both plagiarism and catching plagiarism easier when it comes to academic papers.
However, the over-use of such software to check integrity of content has pushed many university students to find alternative options such as essay mills - companies that offer ghost writing services for money.
Referred to as 'contract cheating', Dr Zeenath Reza Khan, assistant professor at the University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD), told Khaleej Times that academics and governing bodies now need to join hands in the fight against rising cases of dishonesty in academics.
"The UAE is now a hub for education, so universities need to ensure they have strong policies in place to create a culture which promotes integrity, so that students don't cheat."
With technology on the rise, she said there is no doubt it is negatively impacting the way some students submit work. However, that same technology has proven to be powerful in tackling the issue, too.
"Most universities use a software called 'Turnitin'. It has an extensive database of articles and when you run an essay through it, it will check the text to see how much has been copied from elsewhere."
But aside from relying on technology to identify suspect papers, Khan said a holistic approach to teaching students why not to do this is needed in all universities.
Daniel Adkins, CEO of Global Institute Middle East (Education Management Services Provider of Curtin University Dubai), said while students can more easily access and plagiarise material, many professors have now become privy to the tell-tale signs of unoriginal copy.
"Many students are using Internet-based plagiarism checking software to test their plagiarised material and are then adding, removing, or substituting words to get their scores down to zero. This has led to papers being submitted that are so full of incorrect synonyms (that they are ) ... unreadable."
He said universities need to "update their academic integrity policies" to include this type of synonym-laden paper as an academic integrity violation.
But with a rise in ghost writing companies advertising their paid services to students, there are a number of ways that universities are able to catch this type of malpractice.
"Knowing the student's vocabulary and style of writing through taking in-class writing samples allows for easy comparison of the student's writing to the suspected paper."
Additionally, he said requiring oral explanation and defence of major written assignments also provide a way to catch ghost writing.
But like Khan, Adkins said schools and universities need to teach students the ethics of academic integrity and to help them understand how cheating hurts them as individuals in both the short and long-term.
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