I got an offer out of the blue last week to make some great money online by writing academic papers. The offer promised roughly $40-$60 per hour, involved doing something I am good at, and learning about topics I am extremely interested in. The ‘job’ also allowed me to work completely on my own hours and take on as much or as little work as my schedule would allow at any given time. On a strictly financial basis this work would pay much better than any method of making money online that I have done so far. Most people would think it was a no-brainer/dream offer right? Unfortunately most people would be wrong.
Writing Academic Papers For The Paper Mill
The email I received outlined how I could make great money working for a ‘paper mill.’ For those of you (like myself a week ago) who don’t know what a ‘paper mill’ is code for, it means an organization that offers to write academic papers for students who can pay good money for them. I can honestly say that I never even thought about using a site where I could buy a paper while I was going through university. About the most risky I would get is to copy the basic structure and thesis (I would adapt the wording) of an academic journal article and then ‘flesh’ it out again using my own words, and a few other sources. I don’t think this is plagiarism, but it is certainly lazy. These sites take it to another level; you can find someone to write a paper for you on any topic at any time. It is actually pretty unbelievable.
There are various different models for these ‘businesses.’ Some offer a set rate, where you can sell the rights to a paper for $25-$50. Others allow you to post your paper at your own price and then reap the benefits if multiple people want to purchase it; however, the most ‘professional’ sites (like the one that contacted me) offer to write specific, custom-made, original papers for students who can afford the fees. These fees range from about $15-$25+ per page (275 words) depending on the academic level and how soon the paper is needed. Writers have to pass a simple writing proficiency test before they are allowed to write for the site, and after that they can choose to take on which papers they want to do and what the corresponding deadline is.
Writing Academic Papers For Profit Is More Popular Than I Thought
Once I got this email I started doing some online research about how widespread and commonplace this ‘service’ really is. I found a very revealing interview from a few years back with an anonymous freelancer who called himself ‘Ghost Writer.’ The interview was astounding in its detail and frankness. The writer claimed that he had grown disillusioned with the hypocrisy of the post-secondary system and how everyone was only in it to make money. They (there was no male-female designation) decided the easiest way to live their dream of writing about interesting topics for a living was to write academic papers for people. This person claimed that since they had started out just writing papers for their friends, they had since written hundreds of papers in all subjects. These weren’t just undergraduate Romeo and Juliet snippets; they had written Masters papers and even a few PhD theses (which netted them thousands of dollars). They wrote in nearly all academic fields, and said that their speciality was entrance papers. The writer bragged about how they could get someone into any business school or Ivy League university and how they could best explain why that educational institution needed you specifically. They claimed that they made a full-time living, and were paid very well. Rich kids and foreign students made up the bulk of his business, and as grammar has become less important in schools, their business has been thriving.
This momentarily left my head spinning. I know that I’m no PhD, but I do have a couple of degrees and teach students for a living. I realized I could make really good money doing this. When I am in full paper-writing mode, I could easily rip off 4-5 pages an hour on topics that I am interested in. Even if I just took a few choice assignments every now and then, I could still make $500 per month easily. Then my stupid conscience kicked in. Related: What Makes A Good Student
Is there any way to justify contributing to helping others cheat? At first I tried to rationalize it saying, “Well those students would be cheating anyway, if someone is going to get the money it might as well be me.” Then I realized that was how cigarette companies justified selling their products. The more I thought about it, the more cheap I felt. In my daily job as a teacher I reprimand students for cheating and try to catch them at it. How could I do this all day and then go home and produce original work for someone else to take credit for?
And so the quick adrenaline rush of a money-making opportunity died off. If I could just take the morality out of the situation it would be perfect. I would love the challenge of writing about new topics and expanding my horizons. I could appreciate the freedom of the job and that it would be the perfect freelance gig for my skills. I decided I just couldn’t do it and look my students in the eye. Maybe one day I will be writing academic papers for profit, but it won’t be today.
It is not uncommon for employers to request writing samples. Writing samples are simply good examples of your writing skills. They are designed to ascertain whether you have the necessary writing and often research skills to complete required tasks of the position you seek.
You may want to start developing a portfolio of well-written pieces so you can quickly refer to them when needed. You might want to select pieces that show your full range of talents. Some samples might include how well you summarize complex ideas, research papers, editorials, critiques (be sure to omit names), articles, journals, and blogs.
On rare occasions the employer may request a specific kind of writing sample (e.g., a case study). If you have to create one, stick very closely to the guidelines provided.
If a writing sample is requested, here are some guidelines to help you prepare:
First and foremost, make sure the sample is well-written and of the highest quality! Ask yourself if your sample has a clear, well-articulated thesis; is it concise and to the point; does it follow a logical structure; and can the reader easily understand and follow it. Other suggestions and tips:
- It is understood that as an undergraduate student or recent graduate, you will likely use a section of a graded assignment from a class. If sending a graded paper, make sure you received a decent grade, but do not necessarily rule out your "B" papers. Some "B" papers may have potential if you revise them.
- Unless otherwise stated, a good length is 2-5 pages. If you want to send a sample of a larger document, select a 2-5 page section and introduce it with a paragraph that puts the selection into the proper context. Avoid sending 10-15 page research paper even if you received a good grade.
- Provide your own work; if it was a collaborative piece, make sure you state so and indicate which part was your responsibility.
- Assignments related to the industry or subject matter can significantly aide your job search. For example, a case study from a political science or law related course would be an excellent writing sample for a position in a law firm or with an elected official. If you are applying for a job in journalism, you may want to submit an article you wrote for the campus newspaper. For a job that involves research, submit a research paper. For non-profits, you can submit a research paper relevant to the organization's mission.
Preparing the Sample (if not a published article or book)
- Put your name on it!
- Do not try font or margin tricks to make a 2-page paper into a 5-page paper.
- Double and triple check for errors. If you wrote the paper for a class, incorporate any suggestions from your professor or peers.
- Submit a clean copy without a professor's grades or marks.
- If you cited works in the sample, include the bibliography.
- Include a brief note about the context of the sample. For example: "This writing sample is an excerpt from an essay I wrote for my Women's Studies class 'Gender and American Society.' I worked with a partner on this assignment, so I have included only the section of the paper on 'Gender and the Family,' which represents my individual work."