Students, your semester is almost over. This fall, did you find yourself pulling many bong hits but few all-nighters? Absorbing much Schlitz but little Nietzsche? Attending Arizona State University? If the answer is yes to any or (especially) all these questions, you will no doubt be plagiarizing your term papers.
Good for you—we're all short on time these days. Yes, it's ethically blah blah blah to cheat on a term paper blah. The question is: How do you do it right? For example, the chump move is to find some library book and copy big hunks out of it. No good: You still have to walk to the library, find a decent book, and link the hunks together with your own awful prose. Instead, why not just click on a term paper Web site and buy the whole damn paper already written by some smart dude? Que bella! Ah, but which site?
I shopped at several online term paper stores to determine where best to spend your cheating dollar. After selecting papers on topics in history, psychology, and biology, I had each paper graded by one of my judges. These were: Slate writer David Greenberg, who teaches history at Columbia; my dad, who teaches psychology at the University of Rhode Island (sometimes smeared as the ASU of the East); and my girlfriend, who was a teaching assistant in biology at Duke (where she says cheating was quite common). So, which site wins for the best combination of price and paper quality? I compared free sites, sites that sell "pre-written papers," and a site that writes custom papers to your specifications.
A quick Web search turns up dozens of sites filled with free term papers. Some ask you to donate one of your own papers in exchange, but most don't. I chose one from each of our fields for comparison and soon found that when it comes to free papers, you get just about what you pay for.
EssaysFree.com: From this site I chose a history paper titled "The Infamous Watergate Scandal." Bad choice. This paper had no thesis, no argument, random capitalization, and bizarre spell-checking errors—including "taking the whiteness stand" (witness) and "the registration of Nixon" (resignation). My judge said if they gave F's at Columbia, well … Instead, it gots a good old "Please come see me."
BigNerds.com: Of the free bio paper I chose from this site, my judge said, "Disturbing. I am still disturbed." It indeed read less like a term paper than a deranged manifesto. Rambling for 11 single-spaced pages and ostensibly on evolutionary theory, it somehow made reference to Lamarck, Sol Invictus, and "the blanket of a superficial American Dream." Meanwhile, it garbled its basic explanation of population genetics. Grade: "I would not give this a grade so much as suggest tutoring, a change in majors, some sort of counseling …"
OPPapers.com: This site fared much better. A paper titled "Critically Evaluate Erikson's Psychosocial Theory" spelled Erikson's name wrong in the first sentence, yet still won a C+/B- from my dad. It hit most of the important points—the problem was no analysis. And the citations all came from textbooks, not real sources. Oddly, this paper also used British spellings ("behaviour") for no apparent reason. But all in all not terrible, considering it was free. OPPapers.com, purely on style points, was my favorite site. The name comes from an old hip-hop song ("You down with O-P-P?" meaning other people's ... genitalia), the site has pictures of coed babes, and one paper in the psych section was simply the phrase "I wanna bang Angelina Jolie" typed over and over again for several pages. Hey, whaddaya want for free?
Sites Selling Pre-Written Papers
There are dozens of these—I narrowed it down to three sites that seemed fairly reputable and were stocked with a wide selection. (In general, the selection offered on pay sites was 10 times bigger than at the free ones.) Each pay site posted clear disclaimers that you're not to pass off these papers as your own work. Sure you're not.
AcademicTermPapers.com: This site charged $7 per page, and I ordered "The Paranoia Behind Watergate" for $35. Well worth it. My history judge gave it the highest grade of all the papers he saw—a B or maybe even a B+. Why? It boasted an actual argument. A few passages, however, might set off his plagiarism radar (or "pladar"). They show almost too thorough a command of the literature.
My other purchase here was a $49 bio paper titled "The Species Concept." Despite appearing in the bio section of the site, this paper seemed to be for a philosophy class. Of course, no way to know that until after you've bought it (the pay sites give you just the title and a very brief synopsis of each paper). My judge would grade this a C- in an intro bio class, as its conclusion was "utterly meaningless," and it tossed around "airy" philosophies without actually understanding the species concept at all.
PaperStore.net: For about $10 per page, I ordered two papers from the Paper Store, which is also BuyPapers.com and AllPapers.com. For $50.23, I bought "Personality Theory: Freud and Erikson," by one Dr. P. McCabe (the only credited author on any of these papers. As best I can tell, the global stock of papers for sale is mostly actual undergrad stuff with a few items by hired guns thrown in). The writing style here was oddly mixed, with bad paraphrasing of textbooks—which is normal for a freshman—side by side with surprisingly clever and polished observations. Grade: a solid B.
My other Paper Store paper was "Typical Assumptions of Kin Selection," bought for $40.38. Again, a pretty good buy. It was well-written, accurate, and occasionally even thoughtful. My bio judge would give it a B in a freshman class. Possible pladar ping: The writer seemed to imply that some of his ideas stemmed from a personal chat with a noted biologist. But overall, the Paper Store earned its pay.
A1Termpaper.com (aka 1-800-Termpaper.com): In some ways this is the strangest site, as most of the papers for sale were written between 1978 and '83. I would guess this is an old term paper source, which has recently made the jump to the Web. From its history section, I bought a book report on Garry Wills' Nixon Agonistes for $44.75, plus a $7.45 fee for scanning all the pages—the paper was written in 1981, no doubt on a typewriter. Quality? It understood the book but made no critique—a high-school paper. My judge would give it a D.
I next bought "Personality as Seen by Erikson, Mead, and Freud" from A1 Termpaper for $62.65 plus a $10.43 scanning fee. Also written in 1981, this one had the most stylish prose of any psych paper and the most sophisticated thesis, but it was riddled with factual errors. For instance, it got Freud's psychosexual stages completely mixed up and even added some that don't exist (the correct progression is oral-anal-phallic-latency-genital, as if you didn't know). Showing its age, it cited a textbook from 1968 and nothing from after '69 (and no, that's not another Freudian stage, gutter-mind). Grade: Dad gave it a C+. In the end, A1 Termpaper.com was pricey, outdated, and not a good buy.
With all these pre-written papers, though, it occurred to me that a smart but horribly lazy student could choose to put his effort into editing instead of researching and writing: Buy a mediocre paper that's done the legwork, then whip it into shape by improving the writing and adding some carefully chosen details. Not a bad strategy.
Papers Made To Order
PaperMasters.com: My final buy was a custom-made paper written to my specifications. Lots of sites do this, for between $17 and $20 per page. PaperMasters.com claims all its writers have "at least one Master's Degree" and charges $17.95 per page. I typed this request (posing as a professor's assignment, copied verbatim) into its Web order form: "A 4-page term paper on David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. Investigate the semiotics of the 'addicted gaze' as represented by the mysterious film of the book's title. Possible topics to address include nihilism, figurative transgendering, the culture of entertainment, and the concept of 'infinite gestation.' "
This assignment was total hooey. It made no sense whatsoever. Yet it differed little from papers I was assigned as an undergrad English major at Brown.
After a few tries (one woman at the 800 number told me they were extremely busy), my assignment was accepted by Paper Masters, with a deadline for one week later. Keep in mind, Infinite Jest is an 1,100-page novel (including byzantine footnotes), and it took me almost a month to read even though I was completely engrossed by it. In short, there's no way anyone could 1) finish the book in time; and 2) write anything coherent that addressed the assignment.
I began to feel guilty. Some poor writer somewhere was plowing through this tome, then concocting a meaningless mishmash of words simply to fill four pages and satisfy the bizarre whims of a solitary, heartless taskmaster (me). But then I realized this is exactly what I did for all four years of college—and I paid them for the privilege!
When the custom paper came back, it was all I'd dreamed. Representative sentence: "The novel's diverse characters demonstrate both individually and collectively the fixations and obsessions that bind humanity to the pitfalls of reality and provide a fertile groundwork for the semiotic explanation of addictive behavior." Tripe. The paper had no thesis and in fact had no body—not one sentence actually advanced a cogent idea. I'm guessing it would have gotten a C+ at Brown—maybe even a B-. (Click to read the rest of the paper.) If I were a just slightly lesser person, I might be tempted by this service. One custom paper off the Web: $71.80. Not having to dredge up pointless poppycock for some po-mo obsessed, overrated lit-crit professor: priceless.
We also learn a few hard truths from these snippets: that ''A Farewell to Arms,'' which is called ''Hemingway's first book,'' is ''much more than a love story'' (this is a ''high school level'' paper, but still); that Newland Archer's fundamental problem in ''The Age of Innocence'' is his lack of ''tools'' to deal with Countess Olenska; and, reassuringly, that the crucial theme in ''Invisible Man'' is ''the subject of race and racial relations.'' Just think, your children might be spending their drinking money on this stuff.
I bought a prewritten paper on ''The Great Gatsby.'' Dr. T. J. Eckleburg, ash heaps, stupid rich people -- what could go wrong? I also ordered a custom paper, on what I innovatively titled ''The American Dream and 'The Great Gatsby,' '' to see if there was any difference between the two types of book reports.
Surprise: the prewritten paper, on the idea of the hero in ''Gatsby'' (''What is a hero?'' it begins, and later: ''Muscles do not make a hero''), coming in at a reasonable $35, was terrible. The sentences run on, as in this clunker: ''Moreover, the fortune that Gatsby did amount was gained through criminal activities as he had experienced the finer things in life and wished to have a better social position, again he knew that this could only be gained through the status of wealth, in this way Gatsby sought to win the heart of the woman he had fallen in love with, Daisy.'' Faux-elegant words like ''whilst'' butt up against the jarringly conversational: ''Then Nick the narrator discovers who he is bang goes his secret.'' Bang! The paper becomes increasingly sloppy, mimicking the writing patterns of a tired and confused freshman. Maybe this is the point.
Another surprise: the custom-written paper, delivered in three days for $180, a tenth of a community college's annual tuition or the weekend allowance of a wealthy Ivy Leaguer, was a decent piece of work. One passage that probably few undergraduates could dream up even on a good day, after a couple of writing workshops, reads: ''Those who go from rags to riches don't find nirvana or some special land where they are immediately happy, content and removed from earthly worries. They, like Gatsby, find that the reality is that the world is still ugly . . . and that money and power just allow one to ignore those dichotomies a little bit easier.''
Occasionally, the paper even strives for the poetic: ''Idealizing that which has little substance is like saying that once you draw a perfect circle, all of life's secrets will be discovered therein -- the circle is still hollow, no matter how perfectly round and beautiful it is.'' It's a little much, but this paper goes way beyond the green light at the end of the dock.
And compared with the standard paper -- whose dizzy take on the American Dream goes like this: ''Gatsby is the archetypal hero figure, yet he has tasted the bitter ashes of poverty, but then there were so many poor during the turn of the century that he is not alone in that and so like many others of his age he wished never again to be poor'' -- the custom paper is worth coughing up more dough. A's don't come easily, after all.
But wait. So if you're a cheap cheat, your paper will be shoddy, but believable. If you're willing to dig deep for the custom-written papers, you might raise eyebrows. What a bind. Considering that it takes three to four hours to read ''The Great Gatsby'' and perhaps a night to write a short paper, what's actually more amazing is that students would risk their integrity, their education, their unlimited access to sexual experimentation -- all for freeing up 10 measly hours of their already limitless college time.
FINE, I'll admit I was impressed by how efficiently the paper happily popped up in my e-mail in-box. The process is alluring in its simplicity, and more so in its anonymity, except that, in my case, Brenda from the Paper Experts called to tell me, in keeping with the irresponsible-undergraduate theme, that my credit card was maxed out. That unsettling human contact in the midst of my cyber-cheating was creepy and gave me pause. Even had I been a desperate, craven student, Brenda might have been enough for me to call the whole thing off.
And although these sites may proliferate, thanks to the hungry Web marketplace, they won't go completely unchecked. Colleges can sign up for plagiarism-detector Web sites like Turnitin.com, which allows professors to submit papers for an originality check (incidentally, newspaper and magazine editors might be interested in checking out its publishing arm -- iThenticate.com). But can those search engines detect custom-written papers, like my $180, A-plus ''Gatsby'' paper, assuming it's an original? No, not this book report, anyway. It passed with flying colors. Now that it's part of Turnitin's database, however -- and supposing that even the hard workers at the Paper Experts get lazy once in a while -- pity the 19-year-old who goes shopping online for some quick help with the American Dream.Continue reading the main story