SchoolSucks.Com: Let Them Know You Know

By Peter Connor

Essay and term-paper mills have been around since long before the Internet came into being. In days of yore, however, when papers were still pounded out on Selectrics—and other typing gadgets of the pre-millennial era—you had to know behind which shadowy door and down which dustbin alley they might be found. If you wanted to cheat, you had to be in the know, so to speak .

Now, of course, term-paper mills are just a Google away.Thanks to the Internet, they're hiding right in plain sight, down any number of off-ramps to the seedy side of the information superhighway. Anyone taking an interest in the occasional academic shortcut is just a few keystrokes away from a neon-lit cyber strip mall full of them.

Coastal Carolina University’s Kimbel Library has been tracking the proliferation of term-paper mills—and providing links to them—since 1999. Their Cheating 101: Paper Mills and You Web site documented 35 separate sites the first year. Updated every six months, the the Kimbel Library now publishes two lists of active links, one general and the other specific.

At last viewing—March 2, 2010—over 250 general, as well as an additional 71 subject-specific sites, all active since 2004, were on the list. Thanks to the Kimbel Library, you can keep up with them. Here are some bookmark suggestions.

The good news is, with a little teacher-savvy, you can turn this information to your advantage. Lieberg (2008) described what some instructors do:

[They] locate a free student paper from their discipline on the Web and ask their students to read it and critique it as a small-group activity in class or as a threaded discussion on a class Web site. This exercise lets students know that you're aware of what is available, and it gives them a chance to be thoughtful about the actual quality of the free papers.

Incorporating a paper or two into a lesson plan here and there, intentionally letting your students know you know, might bear some interesting fruit. Students' making more mature decisions tops the list. Lessoning the amount of time and effort you might otherwise invest in babysitting chores—like submitting papers to online plagiarism detection sites—is icing on the cake.

Sources:

Lieberg, C. (2008). Plagiarism and assignments that discourage it. In R. Reis (Ed.), Tomorrow’s Professor: Msg. 1001. Retrieved from http://cgi.stanford.edu/~dept-ctl/cgi-bin/tomprof/posting.php?ID=1001

Lieberg, C. (2008). Teaching your first college class: A practical guide for new faculty and graduate student instructors. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Contributors:

Thanks to Dr. Erica Suchman, Associate Professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University, for this tip suggestion. Erica is the CVMBS Master Teacher Initiative (MTI) coordinator.