Are Essay Writing Services Legal Free

Printing two copies of a 35-page dissertation at the university library: £3.50

Wire-binding both copies: £18

Four-pack of energy drinks and a packet of biscuits to make it through deadline night: £3.49

And there you have it – the recipe for a complete dissertation comes in at under £25. But what price do you put on the sleepless nights, stressful supervisor meetings and 12-hour library stints? How much would it cost to have someone else do it for you?

Well, if you're after a first-class history dissertation written by an Oxbridge graduate and delivered in a week, according to one essay-writing company, it'll set you back a cool £3,430 – just £145 less than an entire year's standard student maintenance loan. If you can wait a bit longer and you're only after a Desmond, you can get it for just under a grand.

These prices must be out of reach for most students, but a quick online search of "essay-writing services" returns more than 31 million hits. Clearly these businesses are thriving – so where are their customers? Where are the students who are shelling out thousands of pounds for a pre-packaged essay?

The unhappy answer, I fear, is: wherever there are desperate students. Things go wrong at university – family bereavements, personal crises, simple time mismanagement – and the sheer stomach-turning, throat-constricting panic of being unable to produce an assignment on deadline leads vulnerable students down this costly path.

Now, three grand is worth a bit of customer service, right? Yet online forums are full of complaints about essays arriving peppered with spelling mistakes, arguments that don't match pre-approved propositions and – the most common grievance – results that don't match the promised grade.

One user, who goes by the forum name RippedOff, told me that when she complained about not receiving an essay on time, she was informed that the company had been unable to get in contact with her assigned writer.

"They refused to give me a refund," says RippedOff, "and said that I could claim a discount, but only off the next purchase I made with them. I didn't want to take it any further because I was worried about being found out. The essay never arrived and I was £200 out of pocket."

So the prospect of shelling out for one of these essays is already looking pretty unappealing, even before we consider the unpleasant possibility of, you know, being thrown out of university for wilful plagiarism.

The websites advertise their essays as being "100% plagiarism free!", which we can take to mean that they haven't been copied from a database, and aren't resold to future customers. But students would be very wrong if they thought this somehow put them on the right side of the rules.

By presenting someone else's work as their own they would be in breach of any plagiarism policy at any university. The papers might pass a plagiarism scan, but there's always the chance that a tutor will spot the signs of an essay that hasn't been written by its submitter – disparity in writing style, for example.

But, of course, the essays provided aren't for submitting! How could you possibly think such a thing? Because they guarantee certain grades? Because they promise to meet your deadlines? Because they're fully referenced, double-spaced and bound? Well, clearly you haven't read the small print. Because hidden away on a hard-to-find page on each of these websites is a disclaimer that says something like: our essays are intended for research purposes only.

A leading UK-based site even says that customers who order papers are implicitly confirming that using the service does not violate their university's rules. It adds that, due to the fact the essays are purely for research, that shiny guaranteed 2:1 you were promised on the home page refers only to the general standard of the essay and not your final grade. Well, aren't we glad we cleared that up?

So it's as simple as that. All you have to do is shell out a few thou, bank on your essay arriving on time, hope it's grammatically correct, ensure it makes sense, pray you don't get found out, keep it quiet from all your friends (just to be safe), and live on packet noodles for the rest of term. What could be better?

• If you're interested in stories about student life, take a look at our new Guardian Student Facebook page.

So, you have decided to pay someone for writing your essays. Reasons of your decision may be different, but the fact is that you are going to cheat the system and pay for essay instead of writing it yourself. Do students really understand all risks of choosing custom essay writing services?

Yes, benefits of such services seem obvious, and everything looks quite innocent at first:

  • custom essays are quite cheap (though this fact should alert you, and soon you will find out why it is so);
  • custom essays are well-structured and professionally written (very often, they are written by college professors themselves. Why do they do so? Keep reading to understand);
  • custom essays can’t be detected by plagiarism checkers, because they are not plagiarized actually though they were not written by students themselves;
  • custom essays may help you understand the nature of a good paper and write a high-quality essay by your own afterward;
  • custom essays can save your time, as being a student means having so many tasks and different assignments at the same time, that it may be physically impossible to meet all deadlines.

But everything is not as rosy as it seems at first glance.

The dangers of buying essays online

Why are you asked to write essays and other academic papers in college or university? Such writings develop a student’s critical thinking, their ability to form arguments and meet deadlines, and many other critical skills a person will need in their further life. Moreover, writing an essay is a better tool of learning than reading for example, because if you are able to write about what you have learned and read, it means that you have understood the material perfectly.

So, if you try to cheat your professors and pay for papers, you are cheating yourself instead. And here the first risk of paying for essays comes:

  • knowing your knowledge and writing style, it will be very easy for your professor to understand that it was not you who has written a new essay. If your previous works were not as good as a new one, your professor will definitely suspect something wrong here; yes, your new work is in a different league now. But how did it happen? Have you suddenly become a guru of essay writing? A good professor will hardly believe that.

Why pay people to write essays

There are in about 200 different custom essay writing companies on the Web, and this business becomes more and more profitable, because there will always be students who are lazy or not clever enough to write their academic papers themselves. They prefer asking someone and paying him to spending some time on research and writing a really good essay. But who does write essays for money actually, and whom do you pay to write essay?

Here the second risk of paying for essays comes:

  • when you order an essay, you can’t check the professional skills of your ghostwriter. All of them will definitely say that they are professionals and they perfectly know what they do. All of them will say they are native speakers and they guarantee a high quality of the work they do. But how can you make sure that your money will not be spent on anything unworthy?

Extremely cheap essay writing services can be your first alert that your paper will be written by someone who is not worth your trust.

According to Times Higher Education, prices for such services vary dramatically. One may charge you £70 for a paper, when other one asks £150-£160 for the same work. Prices depend on a region, that it why there is no exact and only scale to understand how much you should pay for a paper of a particular type. And here we have the third risk of paying for essays:

  • you can never be sure that you haven’t paid through the nose for your essay.

What can serve as a guarantee here? How to get an essay of a high quality, which is not plagiarized and overpaid? Shall you ask a college professor to write it for your probably?

Why professors do what they do

Colleges and universities have a very strict policy as for the market of custom essays. They often work together to find new methods of its disclosure. As well as casinos are constantly trying to deal with card counters, colleges are trying to deal with custom essay writing services and severely punish the students who use them. So, here the fourth and probably the most extreme risk of paying for essays comes:
  • if you are caught and disclosed, you will say goodbye to your college and your future diploma. Expulsion is the official punishment recommended for submitting a purchased paper.

But if everything sounds so awful here, it looks really weird when you find out that many college professors are paid to write essays for students. Why do they do that?

In 2010, Ed Dante’s confession blew the Internet up and made everyone speak about custom essays in a different way. His article The Shadow Scholar was published at Chronicle and raised the outrage of society and other college professors. Everyone spoke about teaching ethics, morality and conscience, though the case was about money as well. Yes, simple as that. College professors become custom writers for better income. We all are just people after all.

How to stay safe when paying for essay writing service

There is also a belief, that some students choose college professors to pay for essays in order to get some source of citation for their own works. This may be one of the ways to stay safe when you pay for essay writing services:
  • you ask a professor to write a paper on a particular topic. You know that this paper will be of a high quality, so you are not afraid of paying for it. When done, you cite it in your essay. No plagiarism, you are the author of your work. Profit!

Universities do not give any exact policy on citing such works, and that is why ordering them may be quite safe for your reputation. Though it may still be accepted as an academic offense if they notice you citing a purchased paper. As far as you understand, every medal has its reverse. Moreover, college professors do not believe that students would pay for a paper in order to cite it afterward: does it make any sense to pay for anything to cite, if you can find dozens of respectful sources to cite for free?

If you are ready to order and pay for your essay anyway, try to remember the following:

  • use only trustful and checked essay writing services;
  • keep up with your order progress;
  • always check a paper for plagiarism, even if they say they guarantee a high quality of their work.

But maybe it is still worth trying to write a paper for free?

Where to find help with essay writing for free?

It’s quite strange, that modern students are still ready to pay for essays, having so many sources of free help around. The Internet era makes academic papers writing much faster and easier, giving you a chance to find and use all the information from around the world:
  • being an active user of such social networks as Facebook and Twitter, you may follow dozens of thematic groups, pages and profiles to ask professionals for help;
  • your social accounts may help you find good sources for citation;
  • become a member of some thematic forums to research, discuss and ask for essays topic, statement, opposite views, etc.;
  • do not ignore Reddit. This advanced search source will help you find all the information related to the topic chosen;
  • online libraries of many universities are open for you to use their archives;
  • ask your fellows to help you with essay topics, research or structuring your work;
  • use some thematic communities, where professionals are ready to help you with editing and proofreading your essay.

Using this huge number of free sources for paper writing, you risk nothing, including the fifth dangerous aspect of paying for essays:

  • choosing unknown and unchecked custom essay writing websites that ask you to use your credit card to pay for their services, the threat of your identity theft is always present here.

Certainly, there are many custom essay writing services that work well and do not plan cheating students with bad-quality or stolen papers, their personal or credit cards details theft, etc. And it is a choice and responsibility of every student whether to use such services or not; but taking into account all possible risks and consequences of such a choice, the price you will have to pay for it afterward may be much bigger than a couple of dollars you had paid for your academic paper first.

Now tell us: would you ever pay anyone to write an essay for you?

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