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Studying in the US: Beware of Essay Mills

We continue our discussion of plagiarism. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

We continue our discussion of plagiarism. Last week, we said colleges and universities in the United States define plagiarism as representing another person's work as your own. It is considered a kind of cheating.

Professors at American colleges have tried many ways to stop student plagiarism.

Some use online detection services. They also may discuss plagiarism with their students at the start of every term. Some require their students to turn in early versions of term papers, research papers and essays they are writing. This makes it more difficult for students to buy papers from companies that some call "plagiarism mills" or "essay mills."

A recent report in The Chronicle of Higher Education described such businesses. Many can be found on the Internet. They sell newly written papers on many subjects. The cost depends on the difficulty of the subject and how soon the paper is needed. The cost could be from twenty to forty dollars a page.

Such companies say their writers have advanced degrees, and will target the papers to any educational level. Investigators say the writers may be working in countries like India, Nigeria or Indonesia and are poorly paid. Most of these companies say their work should only be used as models and should not be turned in as a finished work. But students do it anyway.

Some students claim that they order such papers as a way to organize their research. But many also say they do not have enough time to do the work themselves and are under great pressure to do well in school.

University of Notre Dame anthropology professor Susan Blum wrote about this in a new book, "My Word! Plagiarism and College Culture." She writes that academic cheating is a result of communication failure between students and professors. And she says international students must be sure they know the rules of the college they are attending.

Plagiarism may also be a problem in other countries. A recent e-mail to us from Iran described an incident in an English class. Students were supposed to research tourist places in Iran. But one student copied information from a book. The student changed "China" to "Iran" but forgot to change the names of the places. When the teacher asked about his research, he said: "One of the most beautiful tourist places in Iran is Shanghai."

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. I'm Barbara Klein.