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Students: do not use essay writing services, says university lecturer

1st October 2014

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Students who are considering using online essay writing services instead of creating their own work are being warned of the consequences by a top university lecturer.

Dr Thomas Lancaster, a Senior Lecturer in Computing at Birmingham City University, whose specialisms include plagiarism prevention and detection, has conducted extensive research into what he calls ‘contract cheating.’

Since 2004 he has identified over 25,000 attempts by students to buy essays and assignments online.

Essay writing sites typically offer students the opportunity to buy pre or custom written essays on specific subjects, to certain grades – for example to First or 2.1 level.

The costs for these essays often run into hundreds of pounds and the higher the cost, the better quality of essay.

Now, Dr Lancaster is warning students that any essay bought online and then passed off as their own work will be detected and classed as plagiarism.

Students who buy essays online risk not only being disciplined for plagiarism and having their work discounted, resulting in a lower overall grade, but may also find that their purchased essay is of poor quality and may not have been written by someone with English as a first language, he says.

He is also encouraging universities to be aware of the issue, saying that he continues “to encourage teachers and lecturers to be vigilant for the signs that their students are buying their assignments."

Penalties for plagiarism at UK universities can range from informal warnings to permanent exclusion, depending on the seriousness of the offence.

Dr Lancaster’s study is supported by a recent report from OfQual, the government office that regulates exams and qualifications, and London School of Economics, which also highlighted the amount of “contract cheating” that takes place in UK universities.

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