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The Ethics and Implications of Paying for Essay Reviews in Academic Settings

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1. Introduction to the Issue

This means the student hired a service to write an essay for them and then hired a separate service to review or revise the essay before turning it in. The rationale provided for using the latter service is spelled out by an unnamed student in the article about writing services in The Ethical Gamer: “It is kind of unethical to have someone write your paper for you, but it can be much more efficient if you hire an editor to check it out for you.” Such an operation consists in cheating followed by post-production goodness washing, taking a solution to an assignment without actually doing the work and presenting it as if you did. However, this layer of hiring a service to lick a paid-for cake and thereby make it taste less tainted takes place in an environment with intricate and subtle moral, technical, cost, and fairness issues at play. The above-quoted undergraduate essay writing service article is full of hints about the ethical quagmire that is examined in this investigation and informed us of such a practice.

2. Ethical Considerations in Academic Integrity

Scholarly publishing of essays and dissertations may offer students an incentive to follow academic integrity. However, this practice may raise new ethical issues. The question arises whether lecturers can remain independent if they review essays ‘under contract’, especially in degree courses that are intended to educate critics of the knowledge society. One argument against lecturers’ working under ‘per page’ contracts claims that payment will ‘affect the examiner in ways conducive to bias’. Conflict of interest related to the increase in student course completion can sometimes be very subtle.

The ethical considerations in student preparation for essay review should be examined within a wider context of conversations on ‘academic honesty’ taking part in academic institutions. Understanding of what is involved in ‘academic integrity’ may lack a clear delineation in both academic ethics literature and practice. Academic integrity gains attention mainly as a response of educational institutions to allegations of widespread copying of essays, dissertations, and final year reports, plagiarism, honesty of examination processes and reports, cheating in a variety of forms, and breach of codes of practice and academic honesty. Areas in which academic integrity issues occur most frequently should be used to guide the development of strategies to maintain student welfare and safety with particular care to the shared objectives of both lecturers and students, namely completion of evidence-based degree courses and tutorials enabling individual learning from self-funded intellectual challenges. Educational policy may not only omit employers and their role in academic dishonesty, which may indirectly result in higher education policies responsible for improper behaviors, but can also be influenced in the debate on marketization of knowledge.

3. Impact on Learning and Development

The analogy can be taken further. A motivational benefit of attending college is that the social networking with other students is valuable. Networking leads to potentially more fruitful interpersonal communication and increased community, and increases students’ belief in the value of their degree. In my personal conception of education, the extent to which I make purposeful and direct personal connections with others becomes a necessary part of my learning and (to some extent) my development.

If priority cannot be assigned to the quantity of learning and development, one might argue that priority ought to be given to the quality of the sacrifices and potentials. One might argue that if it were true that greater learning and development occurs via research, or that those skills are “better” (where “better” means something like “more useful in the long run” or “contribute more to general human understanding and development” – open for debate), then it would be morally wrong to encourage students to take time away from research in order to increase their grades. I am not sure how to conduct a head-on comparison between research and learning and career training or other personal growth activities, but certainly it seems that everyone (college education degree) knows that students are losing some quality in their education.

4. Regulatory Measures and Consequences

There is currently no material published on software systems for control of dishonesty. However, from the available literature on such implementations, constraints on students’ honest attempts to produce work and the analysis and discussion of the consequences of criminal examination fraud, some of them were previously mentioned. The aim of the exam invigilation system is to minimize examination opportunities for proxies by taking action to improve seating patterns and the approach of static and roaming invigilators. As farming or selling essays is seen as an illegal criminal activity, detection of such occurrences could result in legal action being taken against the company and/or student. This type of action is the ultimate strategy and offers a large deterrent to any would-be commit crime. In addition to the scientific knowledge, deterrent mechanisms, and monitoring process, the only true method to make an impact on cheating is to ask for legislation to regain a sense of academic honesty.

Some of the suggestions we could have from our discussions to establish regulatory measures to control the writing industry are as follows. Universities could take steps to educate students beforehand concerning the consequences of plagiarism. Information could also be given to students indicating which types of support are acceptable and which are not. Furthermore, the penalties associated with academic dishonesty could be communicated at regular intervals to alert students to the university’s stand on this issue and thus deter them from taking that route. As it is impractical for universities to monitor students 24 hours a day, an additional approach is to modify the adoptive strategy. Instead of expecting the universities to monitor, it is possible, and indeed entirely justified, that monitoring is done on the part of examination and invigilation professionals. Invigilators during examinations or coursework tests could initially screen submitted assignments for plagiarism, for example by using the forensic package Identikit.

5. Conclusion and Recommendations

Paid essay or homework reviews can impede the establishment of a trust-based relationship that students need to have with their faculty and university system. Closely monitoring and reinforcing the elements of character such as respect and integrity that also underpin a student’s academic role and responsibilities is one way to maintain an ethical parasocial contract between faculty and students. By involving students in deconstructing assignments, by revisiting the precepts and ethical grounding behind the material and activities represented by the assignment, by linking the elements of the subject domain in meaningful ways and showing students why such assignments are important for their development, academic community interdependencies are made more transparent and the meaning of learning activities more understandable.

The author argues that unfair practices and discrepancies in the ways student work is evaluated can damage the trust level that students have in their university systems. She recommends that academic merit and the educational opportunity represented by the assignment are preserved and emphasized, and that fairness and transparency are of paramount importance in the administration and use of educational assessments. Students can be confused if sanctioned, paid reviews are difficult to distinguish from unmonitored, spontaneous collaborative work, especially when they are trained to conduct self-assessment and review as a crucial part of their educational activities.

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