Papers at a price: Academic ghostwriters
Small talk with academics
Here’s a conversation I’ve often had with academics who ask me what I do for a living. It goes something like this:
Academic: So you help people with their writing? Like, essays and dissertations?
Me: Amongst other types of writing, yes.
Academic: (looking a little doubtful) You correct their papers, or you actually *write* the papers for them?
Me: Are you asking if I'm an academic ghostwriter?
Academic: (looking aghast) No, NO! Nothing like that, it's just, you know, there are these... services.
Ah yes, the "services". For those of you who don’t know, if you live in the world of higher education long enough, sooner or later you’ll stumble upon a shady corner of the professional writing industry called academic ghostwriting.
Writers in the shadows
Simply put, you contact a writing agency (and there are plenty of them out there peddling their services and all just a Google search away), give them some basic information on your assignment and the level and length of your required paper. You discuss deadlines, pay a fee and voilà! A ready-made paper, fit for submission at your university. Some agencies even proudly advertise that their papers are always written from scratch and will therefore pass undetected by plagiarism-busting software such as the widely-used Turnitin.
But not really...
It seems the arguments against are obvious, but for the sake of thoroughness, here's why it's a bad idea to hire a ghostwriter to write your thesis:
1. It's unethical.
2. It's grounds for expulsion at most higher education institutions.
And if that's not much of a deterrent, here's one more reason to add to the pile:
3. It often doesn't work as expected.
No matter how quick, professional-looking and slick ghostwriters may be, they haven’t followed your syllabus or sat in on any of your classes. Once you get past the undergraduate stage, academic writing is far too specialised, nuanced and complex to be simply outsourced.
As an editor (of the legit kind), the concept of academic ghostwriting is as baffling as it is pointless. Getting an education is a key life experience, which cannot be instantly downloaded, pirated or achieved through shortcuts.
In other words, these guys are not to be trusted.
Let’s look at real professional help.
The real deal
Academic editing and proofing actually does provide a valuable service for students—and I’m not just saying that because it’s part of my job (well, alright, maybe just a bit.) But don’t take my word for it. As one prolific PhD blogger, The Thesis Whisperer, puts it:
Editing is beneficial to a native-speaking student and virtually mandatory if English is your second language. It can enhance the quality of language, remove errors and ensure academic conventions are met.
Across a wide variety of subjects, at the Masters, PhD level and beyond, what editors do is help students polish their language, catch typos and identify logical trouble spots in their papers without making substantive changes to the structure or content of the paper, unless it’s warranted or done together with the student through an exchange of comments and suggestions.
Of course, not every student has the elbow room—time or budget-wise—to be able to hire a professional editor or proofreader, but the fact remains that a second pair of eyes is basically a must for any important piece of writing you intend to submit or publish.
So if you need help, you’re amongst the vast majority of writers—professional and amateur, academic and literary—who use the services of paid professionals to help them get their writing in tip top shape. It means you care about your education or job and have taken the time to invest in the most powerful tool at your disposal—your ability to communicate ideas.
Better leave it in the shadows where it belongs.