The Truth about Academic Writing Online

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  • Mar 23rd, 2024 | By Allison | Category: Freelance Writing, Types of Jobs

    When I first started writing, I found a gig that I thought was perfect – writing academic papers. The company sold their business as wanting great college-level papers that students could use as a reference when writing their own papers, professors could use as examples, and so forth. You may have come across some of these jobs.

    So, seeing as my skills as a college student in the English department seemed to match what the company needed, I applied for the job. And I got it – easily. Actually, there didn’t seem to be much of a screening process, looking back, but I just thought that the company loved my resume and cover letter so much that they wanted to hire me right away. My first assignment was a general literary analysis of a book I had read, so I completed it with gusto. My second assignment was a little more specific. My third? Well, the directions were really intense, and it just seemed weird to me that anyone would actually want this paper as an example. It seemed like broader topics would work much better for an “example database.”

    That’s the point where I decided to do a little research. I found out that the company that hired me (which had a very generic name) own a number of paper mills – places where students could essentially purchase papers. Oh sure, the rules said that you could only buy these papers as “examples,” but no one is ever going to pay for a paper and then write their own. It was a huge cheating ring – and a professionally organized one at that. Writers were kept in the dark, students were not able to respond past the initial contact, and there was no way to link assignments to particular schools or professors.

    The truth is that most academic writing online isn’t about intelligent analysis of works of fiction or ground-breaking ideas about biochemistry or interesting comparisons between historical figures. It’s cheating. It’s disgusting, rule-breaking, organized cheating. And you’re part of it, if you write for these companies.

    The problem is, paper mills pay well in many cases. The type of college students that use them are well off enough to spend hundreds of dollars of daddy’s money to buy whatever they need. So, paper mills can afford to pay well. That’s why so many writers work for them, even if they’re a bit smarter than I was and realize what is going on right away.

    But as writers, we do have a responsibility. It’s really easy to look away and say “I wrote this paper as an example. How the student uses it is beyond my control.” Collecting that paycheck every week seems worth it. You need the money. You need the experience. You need to write to pay rent or feed your kids or buy a new pair of shoes. And hey, even if you didn’t write for them, they’re still going to exist, so you might as well grab your piece of the pie…

    That doesn’t make it right. You’re part of the problem, and writing for academic cheating companies is why so many good people can’t find jobs right now. Well, ok, it isn’t the only reason, but you’re denying college students who actually did the hard work a fair shot after school. You want to sit and complain how your younger cousin got passed up for a great job? Consider that you may have helped the person they DID hire cheat his or her way through school.

    Just like in any business, there’s an ethical responsibility when it comes to freelance writing. Say no to paper mills. Speak out against them. Encourage other writers to do the same. If all of the good writers leave these companies, they’ll go out of business sooner than later. There will also be cheaters in this world – but you don’t have to be a part of it.

    A version of this post, written by me, was first published on b5media’s Bizzia website. It is reposted here with permission.

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