Feb 182003
Authors: Kristy Fenton

Curtis Fechner, a political science major and computer connoisseur, flipped open his laptop and with a quick Google search, found pages of Web sites selling high school- and college-level term papers.

The sites advertise prices ranging from $10 to $35 per custom page. Some include testimonials from paper-loving patrons and offer a free trial or sample paper from which students can gauge the company’s writing expertise.

“If they’re willing to give up a free trial, then they must have some confidence in their product,” Fechner said.

Set aside the flashy Web sites and slick advertising, and the topic becomes plagiarism and the possibility of getting caught, which at CSU can result in expulsion.

“It’s a great way to go, but why take the class?” joked Mike Palmquist, English writing professor and online content development director of the CSU writing Web site that receives over 4 million hits a month.

For all of the Web sites that sell term papers, there are plenty that claim to catch people who plagiarize, and using a purchased paper can be risky.

Palmquist recommends that faculty create assignments that make it difficult for students to plagiarize, and does not advise instructors to use Web sites that search for plagiarized papers.

If purchased papers are not hidden on databases, and are just posted on the Internet a quick search could pull it up simply by highlighting a sentence from the paper and copying and pasting it to the search engine, Fechner said.

The problem with instructors using these sites, Palmquist says, is the assumption that the student is guilty until proven innocent.

“I don’t think it’s the right way to treat students,” he said. “The real problem is those students aren’t taking advantage of the writing opportunity at hand. A lot of professors, if you just go talk to them, will give you more time to write your paper, I would.”

Thomas Siller, associate dean for academic affairs and a professor of civil engineering added that if plagiarism is a problem there are usually underlying issues at hand.

“Plagiarism is an issue that we need to educate about, bottom line,” Siller said. “In the instances that I have dealt with, students simply didn’t understand what I was asking and I needed to be more clear about writing assignments.”

Almost anything can be purchased online these days, but term papers may not be a student’s best bet.

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