Adventures in Cheating
A guide to buying term papers online.
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.
Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.
Illustrations by Nina Frenkel.