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Volume 16, Number 4
July/August 2000

Online Term-Paper Mills Produce a New Crop of Cheaters

The Web makes plagiarism easier—and more tempting—than ever. What can teachers do to discourage students?


"John" sits at his computer working energetically on a term paper, a model of the diligent student-or so it seems.

In reality, John is browsing an online "term-paper mill," looking to make a purchase. He may choose a paper that's already written. Or, he may splurge and order a customized paper tailored to his teacher's specific assignment. All he has to do is make his choice and punch in a credit-card number, and he will have "completed" his assignment with just a few clicks of the mouse.

While plagiarizing and purchasing papers have long been academic problems, the advent of the Internet, with its sprawl of information, has made cheating easier for dishonest students to do-and harder for teachers to catch. More than 70 Internet sites offer research papers, dissertations, and college entrance essays for sale. They're so prevalent that many students practically stumble onto them in the course of legitimate web searches.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


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