Tell me about writing term papers for money.
October 23, 2008 8:25 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to start writing termpapers on the side for some extra scratch. I'm looking for success stories, horror stories and references.

Spare me the lecture, I'm square with the facts. I wrote some term papers in the past because I genuinely enjoyed having a little writing exercise. However, that was between friends. I'd like to pursue it somewhat more "seriously", as a freelance dude. I have a degree in English and spend part of my day writing copy so I feel at least qualified.

Poking around the web yields a number of shady looking services offering to write you a term paper. Are some more reputable than others? Looking up the ladder, what's to stop me from skipping the middleman and opening my own, uh, brokerage?

I'm interested in the tales of folks who have done this. Basically I'm looking to make a little extra scratch to launch a small venture. For 99% of my day-to-day I'm not hurting for cash, but it'd be nice to have a little play money from something I enjoy.

Also, Legality. To my knowledge there is no legal statute forbidding the sale of term papers. It may be ethically and morally bankrupt, but not illegal. Again, no lectures, please, just the facts.

If you'd rather not reply here, feel free to e-mail me at:
posted by GilloD to Work & Money (18 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: turns out it's illegal in at least a couple states, so I'm gonna take this down. -- mathowie

A recent essay on just that topic.
posted by neroli at 8:35 AM on October 23, 2008

Response by poster: That was my inspiration :) Thanks for the link again.
posted by GilloD at 8:46 AM on October 23, 2008

Spare me the lecture, I'm square with the facts.

Such as the fact that your profile shows an .edu email address for all (including Juniata College administrators) to see?
posted by onshi at 8:49 AM on October 23, 2008 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: That's ancient, I don't even have the password anymore. But thanks for reminding me to change it! Like I said, I'm fine and square with this.
posted by GilloD at 8:50 AM on October 23, 2008

Best answer: Also, Legality. To my knowledge there is no legal statute forbidding the sale of term papers. It may be ethically and morally bankrupt, but not illegal. Again, no lectures, please, just the facts.

It may not be illegal, but that only means the state won't be coming after you for it. If some undergrad fails a class or is suspended from university due to academic misconduct, there's nothing to stop their angry parents from filing a lawsuit against you. You'll probably be able to prove you didn't do anything illegal, but it will likely cost quite a bit of your time, money (up front) and energy to get to that point.

I was an RA for several years at a large state university and I've seen angry parents do far more ridiculous things than suing someone that prepared term papers for their kid. Being the target of such a lawsuit, even if you're legally cleared, can be very damaging to an academic's reputation (your past questions say you're a grad student and want to teach some day).

I'd try to maintain as much anonymity as possible. I imagine the broker would fold if they were sued, but they might not. If they're offshore, or you're only writing for offshore students, you'd probably be a lot safer from litigation.
posted by Nelsormensch at 8:55 AM on October 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

Mod note: a few comments removed - you know where MetaTalk is and no one is forcing you to answer this question the way the OP presented it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:04 AM on October 23, 2008

Best answer: As a professor without any extra time, I still go to great lengths to ferret out guys like you. Your profile here gives crazed vigilante-professional historians like myself plenty to go on. It's like detective work.

You want to make sure your customers are trustworthy. Think about it: how can you can do that?

Any lazy, dishonest kid with cash to spare, willing to buy a paper, will have no qualms about throwing you under the bus in order to spare himself punishment. So you'll somehow need to make sure your customers don't crack under pressure of interrogation when pressed about where they got their papers.

My T.A. is a Marine corps major. In a small room, just the three of us, how long do you think it takes for a nineteen year old kid to give up a name?

Furthermore, associating yourself with a service like this on the world-wide web will damage your professional reputation and future career, especially if you seek an academic one. Plagiarism is one of the few cardinal sins.

You said to spare you lectures about what you're doing. So here's more advice: maintain discretion and anonymity at all costs. Stick with honors students and work by word of mouth.

Seek employment from one of the companies first before setting out on your own.

To be frank, you don't have the sense to remove your name, alma mater and other identifying information from your profile. This indicates to me, a crazed vigilante plagiarism seeker, that you're not ready to strike out on your own. Good luck!
posted by vincele at 9:23 AM on October 23, 2008 [23 favorites]

Response by poster: I considered submitting the question anon, but as this is more of a general query about the practices and experiences of folks involved, I hardly thought that it was worthwhile.

I agree with you that plagiarism is an awful, horrible thing and I support your quest. But let's take this line of thought to the MetaTalk thread.

Good advice on the anon, I figured if I went ahead with this I'd take the time to send my checks elsewhere, get a new e-mail address, etc etc
posted by GilloD at 9:27 AM on October 23, 2008

there's nothing to stop their angry parents from filing a lawsuit against you.

Is there any documented example of this, or is it just FUD?
posted by smackfu at 9:58 AM on October 23, 2008

Do everything through money orders and anonymous email.
posted by phrontist at 10:13 AM on October 23, 2008

Is there any documented example of this, or is it just FUD?

No, it's true. With very few exceptions, anyone can file a lawsuit against anyone else for little or no reason. Even lawsuits that appear to be completely devoid of merit cost money to defend against, and can harm one's reputation.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 10:32 AM on October 23, 2008

posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:39 AM on October 23, 2008

Best answer: Selling term papers is actually against the law in seventeen states, including Massachusetts . (link). You may be criminally liable if one of your customers is in one of those states.
posted by DWRoelands at 10:50 AM on October 23, 2008 [4 favorites]

Best answer: As a perhaps better option, at least a couple of times in college, I edited peers' term papers. I refused to do actual first research for them, but was happy to double-check research that they'd done or add notes regarding structure, content and articulation. While I was pretty clear that I wasn't even going to rewrite anything for them (which I had to do when I was actually editing stuff for magazines), I think that the advice I gave them was worth the roughly $10 an hour that I charged. At any rate, it made them feel better.

Now, I set up the boundaries that I had for two reasons, one practical and one ethical. I'll admit that the practical was likely the controlling interest—I felt that were I really to exert myself rewriting and restructuring their essays, I would price myself out of the niche that I had. It's easy to spend an extra eight to ten hours on a bad essay, especially if you're doing more research. The ethical reason is that I felt like any more assistance would put me on the wrong side of our student code of conduct. There was also the tertiary concern (by which I perhaps flatter myself) that if I did too much work on them and treated it as a job, I would easily have more clients and work than I cared to do, especially since I had my own papers to write.

So, my advice would be hanging your shingle out on Facebook or Craigslist and letting your credentials speak for you regarding the quality of the service you offer. Where you draw your personal lines regarding writing or rewriting or "editing" is up to you, but I think there's a way to both make money and avoid essentially enabling plagiarism.
posted by klangklangston at 11:11 AM on October 23, 2008

There are a number of services that specifically "edit" application essays. It's a service rather than striking out on your own, and it's a little more focused than "term papers." My experience with Essay Edge (via best friend) was that they would essentially write an essay for you. Still ethically dubious and well paying, but legally in the clear!
posted by aint broke at 11:47 AM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

In the age of Google I would be afraid to engage in such an exploit. It can damage careers. As mentioned above, it is illegal in some states and feelings against this are strong enough to perhaps get you sued or otherwise publically disclosed. Then forever when a potential employer, or romantic partner or perhaps even professional licensing agency searches your character on the web this will show up. Not good. You might find just as much cash and something that you can actually put on your resume by hooking up with someone like a textbook publisher to write legitimate material. In any event, aside from any ethical or moral issues, you are taking a real risk with your personal and professional reputation that could cause harm for many years to come.
posted by caddis at 12:14 PM on October 23, 2008

here's the MeTa thread that this jessamyn character keeps referring to fyi.
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:18 PM on October 23, 2008

Looking up the ladder, what's to stop me from skipping the middleman and opening my own, uh, brokerage?

Writing term papers for money would be an excellent industry in which to take your clients' money and not deliver anything*. Therefore, it would make sense for reputation to matter - that is, you need a company with a reputation for not being a scam.

Furthermore, they will help keep you anonymous; they will shield you from any lawsuits; and they can send you work from elsewhere, to mire any attempts to prosecute or academically discipline you in jurisdictional difficulties.

*After all, what's to stop you? Your ethics? Them threatening to sue you? Ha!
posted by Mike1024 at 2:56 PM on October 23, 2008

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