Zero percent plagiarism

I knew students were buying essays online, but I didn’t know this had become a massive industry. From a recent AFP article:

A Google search for “buy term paper” turned up 183 million sites, some of which, such as, offer to write students’ papers for them when they are “unable to be creative for an essay” or would “rather enjoy a night out than write a book report at the library.”

Another service,, offers hard-pressed students “non-plagiarized research papers and term papers within your deadline… written by qualified American writers” for prices starting at around eight dollars.

Of course, kids who don’t want to write their own essays may not be able to distinguish between a good essay and a terrible one. One essay on comparing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to Catcher in the Rye begins with the sentence, “The forthcoming of American literature proposes two distinct Realistic novels portraying characters which are tested with a plethora of adventures.”

It’s pretty easy to see how this happens. Anyone who is willing to write an essay for eight dollars will probably want to crank it out quickly. And the fancier-sounding the words, the more easily the student will be fooled.

The student may be fooled in more than one way. Accepted Papers guarantees the following:

– 0% plagiarism
– No cut-paste material
– No bogus citations
– Your term papers will not found in any database

Zero percent plagiarism! Shouldn’t Accepted Papers be legally required to disclose that it is plagiarism to turn in someone else’s essay as one’s own?

In their FAQ they state, “Our philosophy consists of understanding the needs of our clients, offering excellent quality services and continuous satisfaction.”

I suppose the “continuous satisfaction” would be broken if they told the kids they were doing something wrong.


  1. It’s code for it won’t get flagged by

  2. It won’t get caught by but hopefully the teacher will actually read the paper and realize the writing style does not match that of the student’s other work. Again, hopefully the teacher will read the paper…

  3. From the sounds of that first sentence, I suspect that the actual writing of the papers is being outsourced to India.

    On the other hand, from my CS tutor days, it took perhaps 10 seconds to determine if a student copied a paper. In general, anyone intelligent enough to be able to get away with this is also intelligent enough to not use these services.

    Of course, it’s probably easier to get away with it in a class of 100+ students.

  4. Deirdre Mundy says:

    When my husband was in grad school, I looked up some of those paper-writing sites on a lark– at the time, some were paying $25 a page if you had a BA from a good school and access to a university library.

    I can write a 5 page paper in an hour and a half…. if only I hadn’t had morals, I could have been rich!! 🙂

  5. If they actually advertise 0% plagiarism, they may well be civilly or even criminally liable under many states’ unfair & deceptive trade practices statutes.

  6. Diana Senechal says:


    Exactly. I was thinking just that.


  7. If they are paying more money just to pass and practically to stay ignorant, well, it’s more their problem than teacher’s. This thing is actually a symptom of a more complex problem – devaluation of the education in general and at the same time overestimation of the importance of the education when it’s “required” for the positions where it’s actually not really needed. Just read job postings. Requirements are over the roof. Do those people look for real candidates who actually fit every requirement? So when we have both sides (employers and job seekers) trying to “win the game” instead of real expectations and conditions, honest conversation and self-presentation, no wonder people start treating education as a part of the game where you just have to get a degree.
    I am not defending the plagiarism but we have to be discerning and see why it’s growing so fast.

  8. Moreover, when a student requests a paper and the site delivers, this strikes me as a conspiracy to commit federal wire fraud, followed by the actual act of wire fraud. Two counts, each a five year max, PER PAPER.

  9. Cardinal Fang says:

    The number of term paper sellers suggests that many students are successfully using such services. If every student who turned in a bought essay flunked the class, the business would dry up, so we’ve got to conclude that the students are getting away with it.

  10. Where’s the helpful service for the teachers? I’m thinking I’d be happy to grade the papers of my child’s entire classroom for $8. My kid gets an A, and the teacher is happy. What could go wrong? 😛

    Ok, seriously, if I got a paper like the one cited above, I’d ask the student after class what the sentence meant “because I’m a bit confused.” LOL, and see what she’d say.

  11. Well, because if the kid is actually a terrible writer, it is hard to pick up that the terribly written paper was actually written terribly by the terrible essay mill instead of the terrible student (who is probably still terrible due to the essay mill service being so terribly convenient when the student wants to enjoy a night out with friends instead of writing an essay).

    I catch a few plagiarized essays every year, but probably not nearly all of them. My favorite gotcha technique is “tell me what this word means.”

  12. All it takes is for one teacher to run that paper through and then the other kids are likely to get caught.

    Sadly, some students (like some politicians) will always find a way to cheat the system. When they’re caught they cry and act contrite but in reality, you can bet they’ll do it again… our society as a whole is far too accepting of the behavior, or is at least too quick to forgive. Further exacerbating this drive to cheat is that so many students care only for the grade.

    A few years ago we had a bunch of kids break into our high school (using a stolen master key) and rifled through a bunch of teachers’ desks to get the keys to the upcoming final exams. Dozens of kids were eventually implicated…and nearly all of the classes whose testkeys were stolen were AP or advanced classes. The kids implicated were included the ASB officers, class leaders, I think even the would-be salutatorians. The punishments from the school were not harsh enough, though there were rumors that a few of the kids had their acceptances to university revoked when the admissions folks found out. Luckily the kids had powerful parents with time, clout, and lawyers who could swoop in and rescue little precious from those evil administrators threatening to levy consequences.

  13. If they actually advertise 0% plagiarism, they may well be civilly or even criminally liable under many states’ unfair & deceptive trade practices statutes.

    Not so fast. It’s quite possible that every paper purchased from Accepted Papers really is the product of original plagiarism-free work. The paper only becomes the object of plagiarism if the student actually submits it under his own name. In that case, the student has plagiarized the original work of the Accepted Papers ghostwriter, and probably violated their copyright as well.

    Obviously, selling the paper to the student in the first place is an egregious violation of academic standards, but at least in the eyes of the late Messrs. Merriam and Webster, it isn’t (necessarily) plagiarism.

    Then again, it’s just as likely that the Accepted Papers ghostwriters are buying their papers from one of the other 182,999,999 term paper sites.

  14. Diana Senechal says:

    Yes, but even if this is so, wouldn’t “0% plagiarism” still be deceptive advertising? The company is encouraging students to plagiarize–come on, who is going to buy one of those essays for “research purposes”?–and then saying there is zero percent plagiarism in the essays.

    Shouldn’t the company make clear that while the essays are indeed original work–if this is so–it is still plagiarism to turn them in as one’s own?

  15. Maybe the solution is locking the students in a room, with either old-fashioned blue books or with non-internet-linked computers, and forcing them to write the damn essays then and there, without any “extra” out of class time?

    It’s a bad solution, I realize, but I am getting really fed up with the whole evolutionary arms race that forces me to check every single paper I grade, and even then know I may not be catching some.

    Part of me wants to say “It’s their souls; it will come back and bite them some day” but another part of me wants to catch and punish every little booger that does this. Because of the students who DO do the work, who put in the hours, and whose work may be devalued relative to someone who just shelled out the cash.

    Another thought: maybe some vigilante professors will buy some of these “0% plagiarism” papers and submit them to Turnitin. Or is that somehow illegal?

  16. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Part of the problem is the large university with massive throughput of students. At large state schools, it is (I discovered to my shock when I became a graduate student) typical for undergraduate paper topics to be assigned. This allows the student to simply send the prompt to his or her ghost writer and receive a topical, original piece in return.

    That sort of thing cannot happen in a more intimate academic environment where students are required to talk with the professor about the development of paper topics… but that’s not the sort of thing that can possibly take place when there are 240 students in a class and the primary motivating concern of the Professor and the TA’s is making sure it’s possible to easily and fairly compare the papers against each other to smooth out the grading differentials between the various discussion sections.

  17. “nearly all of the classes whose test keys were stolen were AP or advanced classes. The kids implicated were included the ASB officers, class leaders, I think even the would-be salutatorians.”

    I have to say that I’m not surprised. College admissions have become so competitive that to get in to a good school, students have to take on a much greater workload than many of them can actually handle.

    I talked last year to one of the project leaders of my DD’s 4-H club, who was then a senior at one of the local high schools and applying to my alma mater. She was the valedictorian of her class and I was amazed by how heavy an academic schedule she was carrying on top of being on a varsity athletic team and an officer in 4-H. There’s no way I personally would’ve been able to do everything she was doing without cutting some corners here and there.

    I have no idea whether she ever cheated in her quest for admission to a top college, but I have to say I would not be surprised if she did. She was clearly a bright girl and had she been taking the kind of schedule I did in my senior year, I’m pretty certain that there wouldn’t even be a doubt about possible cheating. But it’s like trying to be a clean ballplayer in the steroids era- how do you compete with all the players who are juicing up?

  18. “…how do you compete with all the players who are juicing up?”

    You wait until they fall apart, as Blair Hornstine did?

    A large part of this problem begins with the colleges. Many applicants are engaged in the academic and extracurricular arms race. I suspect that many applications stretch the truth when it comes to the applicants’ commitment to extracurriculars.

    There’s no excuse for plagiarism and cheating, though. It’s very painful that teachers and professors must doubt students’ honesty.

  19. It’s not just essays, unfortunately. One of my high school classmates pays to have some of her other college assignments done for her. Guess what class she needs the most help with. Math for elementary teachers. Yep, she’s a pre-service teacher. 🙁

  20. English teachers I know have been seeing more instances of selective plagiarism: Quotations lifted from various online sources and cobbled together into larger, incoherent (though sometimes coherent) papers. Sudden changes in style and tone are the biggest giveaway–but who needs an essay-writing service to plagiarize these days?

  21. I ended up on a “Hit List” death threat because I gave a zero to a student who plagiarized (blatantly, and she was a smart student- knew better). Her brother took offense to that and I was the only teacher name on a list that included 20 student’s names.

  22. “It’s very painful that teachers and professors must doubt students’ honesty.”

    If someone were to pursue criminal charges with respect to the paper mills, I think that doubt would be quickly dispelled. As I noted above, even if the state-law deceptive practices violations don’t always necessarily fit, wire fraud does. That’s tens or hundreds of thousands of counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, neatly tied together as predicates under RICO. It genuinely surprises me that no one’s done this…or maybe they have and just don’t know about it?

  23. I don’t think it is plagiarism, which is unauthorized use.  Suppose these papers are truly custom-written (perhaps with some random variations in phrasing) for each purchaser.  They are works for hire, with the copyright legitimately owned by the purchaser.  There’s no violation of law, let alone RICO.

    Unless it is a crime to have one’s work done by a ghost writer, the only issue is cheating (as if that isn’t enough!).

  24. “There’s no violation of law, let alone RICO.”

    Here’s the relevant provision of 18 USC 1343, the federal wire fraud statute, which I undershot the penalty for (20 years rather than 5):

    “Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.”

    Someone need not engage in copyright infringement to be guilty of wire fraud, nor need the scheme or artifice to defraud be for financial gain. Furthermore, once you have a conspiracy between the paper mill and the student, that’s 1) a separate count of conspiracy and 2) criminal culpability by the student (as a principal) for the substantive wire fraud of the co-conspirator paper mill.

    RICO requires a “pattern of racketeering activity,” i.e., at least two acts of a list of about 30 predicate crimes within a 10-year period. Wire fraud is expressly among them. Therefore, I don’t think a RICO case against a paper mill is a stretch.

  25. I don’t get what the fraud is supposed to be.  If the purchaser of the paper is actually getting what they paid for, what’s the element of fraud?


  1. […] of course, you put your name on it. Diana Senechal found this odd little promise (doesn’t look like a warranty, in legal terms) being offered by a vendor of term papers: […]