Detecting the use of essay writing services in college essays

essay writing service

Essay mill is another name for an essay writing service that produces essays for students. An essay writing service is supposed to write an essay for a student that the student may pass off as their own work. There are a massive amount of essay writing services on the Internet, and as with most service industries you get your bad eggs. If you went to the high-quality content writing services like then you would get a piece that is custom written and original, but there are other services that plagiarize and steal essays to sell to students and those are the ones that are likely to get a student expelled. In this article, the words college and university are interchangeable. Is this ethical - to buy and sell essays? Hard question, right?
Will essay-writing services destabilize western education?

Not if changes are made, some of which may be lifted from this article. As a market expands and evolves, then the elements of that market (customer base, customer awareness, products, marketing, etc) are supposed to evolve too. The same is true of government and national institutions and services. Essay writing services are clearly a massive threat to the integrity of a college education, and if colleges and universities do not evolve then western education will destabilize as less and less people put their faith in it.

Do not forget that in less than ten years we will have today’s students hiring people. Today’s students know they got through college by cheating, so when they are in the position to hire people, are they really going to trust the integrity of a college degree? Wouldn’t they rather trust a person with 4 years experience as oppose to a person that spent 4 years cheating his or her way through college?

Detecting the use of essay writing services

A red flagging system should be used, whereby an essay should be earmarked for further checks if something raises suspicion about who wrote it and if the user has cheated in any way. Below are a few detection methods that colleges and universities can use to detect cheating and/or the use of an essay writing service.

Detection - Plagiarism detectors

This is for the really dumb essay writing service that copies essays from online and sells them to students. Plagiarism detectors will only check for content that is indexed within the biggest search engine indexes, so they are not reliable red flag producers unless a student was unlucky enough to buy a plagiarized essay.

Old essays that were produced and handed in should be stored online and indexed. This will help to stop students selling their old term papers and essays when they leave college because people will know they are online right now.

Detection - Checking for spun and rewritten content 

Detecting spun content is very easy. Give a college professors/essay marker a spinning program for an hour to play with it, and that person will then become an expert at spotting spun content because it is that easy to see. The sentence flow is often atrocious and the use of vocabulary is very scattershot.

Rewritten content can be spotted in a number of ways. The content will often go one of two ways. The content will be much diluted because the writer has had to stretch points into different wordings, or the content will have condensed points followed by fluff as the writer rewrites and finds that he or she has done it in fewer words than the original writer has. 

Another classic sign of a rewrite is when a piece has sections that make no sense. It is where the student has rewritten a piece but has not understood it, so the student has hashed together a piece from what he or she has read. 

Detection - Checking for overly fluffed and poor quality content

Many essay-writing services are only interested in their word count because that is what they get the money for. Many will only promise a pass, which means there are between 10% and 60% worth of marks they have to lose. Overly fluffed and poor quality content may be the mark of the student, but it should still send up a red flag.

Detection - Checking for classic mistranslation errors

There are certain idioms that many non-native English speakers are going to get wrong. It is possible for people with English as their first language to get certain sayings and idioms wrong too, such as the students that frequently use “taken for granted” as meaning “Taken advantage of.” Still, there are many non-native English speakers that will use idioms and saying whilst missing their central point. 

A good example is a person that uses, “Starting from scratch” as meaning “Starting from a place of pain/damage/hurt” as oppose to meaning starting from the very beginning. The incorrect use of sayings, colloquialisms and idioms may not be a definite sign of an essay writing service product, but it should produce a red flag. If the student is not a non-English native speaker, then the saying, colloquialism or idiom should be explained to that person as a mark of curtsy.

Detection - Shared essay files between colleges/universities

Every essay that is handed in through the country should be placed onto one database. When a new essay is handed in, it should be checked against all the others that have been handed in throughout the country. This will help detect essays that have been resold to different students. It indicates plagiarism and probably the use of a nefarious essay writing company.

Detection - A note of themes being made whilst marking

If a bullet point list were produced when marking that showed the themes and points of the essay, then such a list may be compared with others. If there are two lists that look awfully similar, then both essays should be red flagged. This may indicate that a person has rewritten the essay of another, or it may indicate that an essay writing service is producing numerous versions of the same essay for different students.

Detection - Checking for similar bibliographies

The bibliography is a very big giveaway when checking for plagiarism and the use of essay writing services. There are two ways you can use it, with the first being checking for similarities and the second being checking for askew references. 

You can check a bibliography with that of other essays to see if a lot of entries are eerily similar. If two essays show signs of very similar bibliographies, then is should send up a red flag.

Askew references come through essay writing services not having taken the courses that the students have taken. During their time at college, they will be given resources and will read textbooks and such. Many of these resources and textbooks will find their way into the students’ bibliographies. It creates a similarity between reference sections, but not enough to send up a red flag (as per the point above). An essay writing service writer has not taken the course and so will consult very different resources and only reference a small minority of the works the students have studied in class. What’s more, you will often see very different references all together from those of the students, for example, a lot of journals from the Google directories will appear in place of journals from the online student library (normally only accessible to students of the college).

Detection - Taking note of a student’s writing style

Every writer has a voice, and the quality of that voice (how well it is honed, developed, distinct, etc) will often determine how thought provoking and interesting their writing is. 

Hold up the works of a student from the start of the qualification to the end and check for writing style. It is going to develop a little during their time at college, and that development may not be linear, but if an essay writing service has been used then it is going to show as a different writing style.

Even the words a student commonly uses will change if that person uses an essay writing service. The flow and attitude of the content will change and once you hold the essays side by side you will see the difference rather easily. 

Detection - Check for recurring mistakes and/or lack of

As a human and a writer, you are going to make mistakes as you write. Quite often the mistakes will happen quite often, even if the writer knows the mistake. Some occur out of habit and others are just oversights. A person may be well aware of when “was” and “were” should be used, but simple oversights may lead that person to make the same mistakes repeatedly. 

One of the most common reasons for this is because of how people talk. If a person always says “lay down” instead of “lie down,” then that person is more likely to write it incorrectly too. It is often more prominent if that person associates with people that make similar mistakes when they talk too. You can use recurring mistakes to check for inconsistencies that lead to red flags.

If a person makes the same mistakes and then stops, then it may be that the writer has corrected his or her own work or that he or she has started using a proofreader. It may also be a sign that he or she didn’t write the essay. This is especially noticeable if the mistake suddenly returns, as it may indicate that the student has started writing his or her own essays again.


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