Ghostwriter or College Cheat’s Companion? The Sordid World of Paper Writing Services

I recently received the following email: Dear Madam, I see you are a ghostwriter. Can you help me? I must go to UK on a study holiday. Please can you give me your phone number so my teachers can call you and you can verify my work? Please can you write a report on my satisfactory work? Thank you.

I must admit my reply was disingenuous, rather than writing: No I won't you lazy cheat I said I didn't understand. Why could he not ask his real supervisor in the UK to phone and to write the report? Why did he need me? Of course, he didn't continue the correspondence! It left a nasty taste in my mouth, though. For him ''ghostwriter” was synonymous with “person who will help me cheat”. Well, you picked the wrong person, mate!

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education  called The Shadow Scholar made me think of the whole murky sordid unethical area of essay writing services, called paper writing services in the US. The writer Ed Dante (not his real name) is supposedly coming clean about his academic paper ghostwriting service and how widespread cheating is in the academic world. But all I could think of was 'you unethical loser.' He boasts in the feature about how much he made writing in the stead of the hopeless, hapless and dishonest. He quotes examples from Ph.D students who can barely string a sentence together as if we're supposed to be horrified that they resort to his services. Well, hello? People have always cheated. The only horror I felt was that someone talented enough to write academic papers for other people had so shamelessly sold his soul to make money. For God's sake! Where are your morals, man? How many people have you helped get qualified and put in positions of responsibility who should never be there?

I am the daughter of older Scots parents with a razor sharp work ethic which has sliced its way into every area of my life. (It's probably why I can't ever 'relax' and always have to be on the go 'doing' something!) My father used to say 'Get your qualifications, they can never take them away from you.' And so I did. O levels, A levels, degree, three postgraduate qualifications (the most recent just four years ago!) And all of those involved study, sacrifice, hard work and, yes where Warwick University was concerned – a hell of a lot of partying too. But I still wrote all my essays myself. I once had to read 14 novels in two weeks because of leaving things to the last minute, but bloody hell, I did it. And I can say, hand on heart, that apart from telling everyone in my class at school to 'vote for me and I'll vote for you,' in the form captain election when I was six years old (and then promptly voting for myself – I won of course!), I have never cheated.

So here's my message to students – do the work yourself. You learn from your failures, stress is part of life and certainly part of the world of work – get over it!

But my message to people like Mr 'Dante'  is stronger than that. Shame on you.