Signs all over campus are telling you to do it, but is buying an essay a viable option for students? Tara Deschamps reports
When students are assigned an essay, they often find themselves dreading the caffeine-filled nights in the library that are ahead.
But for some, the solution to the essay blues is posted on bulletin boards or poles around campus.
These locations are crammed with advertisements promising “custom essays” to match “any deadline.” Essay or paper mills, as the businesses are called, offer students the chance to skip out on hours in front of a computer writing and editing, but as The Eyeopener discovered this week, these essays come with a hefty price tag and some risks.
We purchased an essay from Toronto Essay, a company with a location on Yonge Street that claims it can produce essays in as little as 24 hours on any topic.
The essay we bought was about language in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest – a topic based on content covered in some sections of Ryerson’s Nature of Narrative I course.
Toronto Essay sells undergraduate essays based on the number of pages and time given to complete the paper. Customers who give the company 24 hours pay $35 a page, while those who allow more than five days for their assignment to be written pay $28 per page. Regardless of the order, all customers must purchase at least two pages.
As part of our investigation, we gave Toronto Essay two-and-a-half days and $135.60 for a four-page essay with works cited.
Overall, the finished product was pretty good. But while the essay seemed to make a decent argument, it lacked secondary sources which are a key component of undergraduate essays. It also seemed as if the writer was rushing to meet the deadline. In fact, the secondlast paragraph and the conclusion paragraph were only three and four sentences long, which implies that time could have been a factor while writing.
According to Toronto Essay, whatever is purchased is considered a “research tool” and noting more.
“Our service is intended to help students in their own essay writing endeavours. Essay writing can be overwhelming, but often having a ‘research tool’ to point them in the right direction can really help them get over the ‘hump’ as they work on writing their own essays,” the company website says. “We custom write these essays so that students can have the tools they need to overcome their academic challenges.”
Their terms and conditions also say any essay purchased is not meant to be handed in for class. “[The essays] are not intended to be used as one’s own work, and Toronto Essay does not endorse or encourage this type of action,” it reads.
However, when we implied the essay we purchased would be handed in, Toronto Essay employee Sarah never deterred us or informed us of the company’s policies.
Instead, she said it was up to our discretion whether we’d like to submit the story. “Some students like to take it and change things around.
Normally, some students take the essay and do what they choose to do with it,”she said.
She added that purchased essays don’t come with a grade guarantee but we wouldn’t be disappointed with whatever we bought.
“Because we don’t know your personal situation or your professors, we don’t guarantee grades but I can guarantee that you will be happy with what you receive just because these essays are quality,” she said. “You’re not going to be getting something that is garbage.”
The website said that the essays are written by people with master’s and PhDs. When I went into the office, Sarah turned around her computer screen to show the essay she was working on that day.
The essay was supposed to be available on Toronto Essay’s online server at 8 a.m. last Sunday but it wasn’t. A few hours later, however, we received an essay that met the typical length, style and content of an undergraduate paper.
While the essay matched the regular parameters of an undergrad paper, submitting anything that you didn’t write is considered plagiarism making the use of the essay for class risky.
Ryerson’s Academic Integrity website offers extensive descriptions of the school’s understanding of paper mills and the Student Code of Academic Conduct. The code cites “submitting stolen or purchased as signments or research” is a “mis representation of personal identity and performance.” Toronto Essays refused to comment on the code.
English professor Aaron Tuckerwarns that instructors can often spot a purchased essay without the help of plagiarism detectors like Turnitin.
“If a student uses concepts, quotes or ideas that are beyond the level of the course or they don’t fit with the conversations we’ve been having in class then that’s something that would raise a flag,” he says.
Tucker refused to mark the essay we purchased or to make comments about it because he said he does not feel comfortable violating the trust or integrity of students.
He does, however, say he has caught students using essay services.
“You usually ask a student and they are generally very honest when you point out certain areas,” he says.
Tucker also says the consequences for any student caught submitting something they did not write themselves can range from a zero grade on an assignment, failing a class, a mark on your student transcript or expulsion.
“It’s not as if I brand you with a scarlet p,” he says. “You go through the process with the professor and the academic integrity officer.” Tucker says purchasing essays undermines the integrity of postsecondary education.
“I think all students are good people and idealistically, I want to think students will go through the process and learn to be thinkers,” he says. “Buying an essay just destroys the reason for being in university and it’s not teaching you how to think analytically if you’re stepping over it.”