Stamping out essay writing cheats for students: some hope at last

Some of you may have noticed that I have been ranting for some time about essay (plus thesis, dissertation etc.) writing offered online so students can pay someone else to write their work – cheating.

Hellping university students to cheat

Essay mills to help students cheat: approx 250 million on Google alone

Finally here in the UK someone has taken notice of this easy rip-off for cheating students and is hoping to do something about it. To quote the BBC news website’s headline:

PayPal urged to block essay firm cheats

Will shaking a stick at PayPal deliver any real results? Not in isolation, no. But with luck, it’s a start.

An impossible task for universities and colleges

When I have asked university staffers in the UK and Canada about this problem they look at me with shock. They tell me that every student’s work is scrutinised and if a sudden improvement or change of style occurs it will be noticed and the student brought in for a stern chat.

Really? Do you seriously think you can control essay cheating along with everything else you have to do?

If it’s that hard to cheat, how come when I looked up “essay writing services” on Google just now there were “about 318,000,000 results” ? If there are 318 million of these “essay mills” in business (give or take a few duplications, so say even 250 million) to me that suggests business is booming.

As I write this there are roughly 2.4 million students going through Higher Education in the UK, in roughly 350 universities and colleges. To police subtle changes in essay writing style would cost a distinctly unaffordable sum of money, especially during these cash-strapped days in the UK.

Slaps on the wrist are just not enough

“These unscrupulous operators, increasingly and falsely marketing themselves as providing legitimate study aids, must be stopped in their tracks,” according to Douglas Blackstock, head of the UK’s Quality Assurance Association, talking to the BBC’s Mr Blackstock also warned of students being blackmailed by essay-writing firms, with demands for money under the threat of exposing the previous cheating.

Nice people, right?

As several of the other experts mentioned in Sean Coughlan’s article have stated, cheating in this way should be made illegal.

Not that this would affect most of the 250 million perpetrators who are out there in nicely anonymous locations, thumbing their noses at any legal efforts to suppress their real activity while hiding behind respectable “editing and proof-reading” services.

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Spam, assignment writing services and other crap: trying or trivial?

The only way to make such illegality stick, is for the students who use such services to take the rap.

Sad in a way, especially for foreign students whose English isn’t very good. But if they apply for university in a country where their own mother tongue is not the number one language, they need to think about it a little harder anyway, and most universities offer them help to catch up with their English (at least they did at my son’s university.)

Snitching on your peers? No thanks. Two wrongs don’t make a right

According to UK’s The Guardian newspaper, Damian Hinds – the current UK Education Secretary – suggests that university students should report their fellow students if they suspect them of cheating.

No, sorry guys. Surely it’s the government’s and the universities’ responsibility to get to grips with the problem, rather than abdicate that responsibility to students themselves and expect them to “grass up” their friends?

Other worthies have suggested types of “honour pledge” … a voluntary agreement between students and their alma-maters-to-be that they promise not to cheat. Once again, that’s shifting the onus on to students themselves to help reduce the problem – not just to take the rap when they, personally, are caught cheating.

Punchline: wishy-washy methods of trying to stamp out a nasty practice that has been going on for years and has grown into a huge international scam-fest, are not going to work. In my view, penalties for students caught cheating through use of these essay mills should not just be a failure or expulsion from the university, but also an offence that gives them a criminal record. That may make them think twice before doing it.

What do you think?

Please share…


With many thanks for use of the image above to University Student Cliparts.

Some harsh-but-true words about “bestselling books”

Please welcome back my wonderful, straight-talking friend and colleague from Toronto, Tsufit – who has some startling and true words to say about “bestselling authors,” as I have on more than one occasion. Because it’s so easy to manipulate the system with online book sales, the perceived value of being a bestselling author is shrinking by the day. Over to Tsufit

photo of Tsufit

“Put a brick between 2 covers, add endorsements & great title; it’ll sell.” Tsufit

“You can take a BRICK, slap it between a provocative front and back cover with a great title, add some strong endorsements and your book will sell.”

That’s exactly what I told the participants in my Book Creation Workshop the first time I ran it a few years ago.

It’s certainly not something I recommend or teach. Write a cool book! [Read more…]

Is it wrong to say “write to me?” The terrible telephone

You’re right in the middle of doing something that needs your full attention. You’re concentrating hard, just about getting to grips with it. You can see the A-HA moment ahead of you. The light at the end of the tunnel is beginning to wink at you. You reach out and almost touch it. Nearly there…

Then the phone rings. You answer.

why phone calls are disruptive

Miraculously the whizz-bang device of the 19th century, called the “telephone,” is still here with little other than the back-office technology having changed much.

“Hi Suze, it’s XXXXX. I was just having a read through of your YYYYY book and I’m not sure what you meant by your sentence about blog abstracts on page 178. Can you tell me more about it?”


[Read more…]

A poem about political willie-waving, plus a few…

Feeling irritated by the political lunacy going on in UK and US politics? Me too. Here’s my reaction. Please share yours!

Political poem on How To Write Better


Here in year twenty nineteen
Give this poem a good eyeball
Politics just make us scream
Brexit chaos, Trumpy’s wall [Read more…]

What do we want to write better in 2019?

I don’t mean this in a commercial way, but rather as in what from your heart do you really want to share with others in this coming year when we’re focused more than ever on deeply personal issues like mental health, mindfulness, happiness, positivity in the light of political, social and ecological darkness?

Do we want to write more about politics?

I don’t, for sure. I don’t dare.

What will we write about in 2019

What can we write about in 2019 that will help address our current issues?

Looking out through my electronic window a.k.a. my desktop screen, all I can see is a childish, petulant bully in the USA … a frightening face-off in our neighbouring France … courteous, amiable and utterly confused political squabling in the UK’s parliament … terrifying geological realities in Indonesia … all symptoms that remind us that we’re simply festering little pimples on the backside of a churning world. [Read more…]

Happy Hanukkah: hope it give us peace and love

To all our Jewish friends, here’s hoping you’re enjoying a peaceful and restorative Hanukkah.

Hanukkah celebration on HTWB

Happy Hanukkah!

At this time of the year there are a number of religious and other festivals, and it’s right that – as we honour all such festivals – we honour Hanukkah, with its lovely story that can inspire us for greater hope, light, peace and tranquility.

All qualities we need to cling on to even more in these turbulent, troubled times.

This year Hanukkah ends on the evening of Monday (December 10th, 2018), but for now…

Happy Hanukkah!