Recent articles (see below) have highlighted growing concern about students purchasing made-to-order essays and assignments from so-called ‘essay mills’ or ‘essay writing services’ and how universities need to raise awareness about the practice and the risks involved. The practice is known as ‘contract cheating’.
- From the BBC: Cheating university students face FBI-style crackdown
- From the Guardian: Essays for sale: the booming online industry in writing academic work to order
Oxford University has been aware of this practice for a number of years, and warns students by means of lunch-time awareness sessions, study skills websites and other support services (Oxford login required). Students are also warned not to seek free so-called ‘plagiarism checking’ services, which may be spurious (for example, resulting in stealing original work and selling it to others).
From January 2019, the providers of Turnitin will launch a new add-on product called Authorship Investigate. This tool makes use of forensic linguistics and machine learning to investigate a piece of student writing based on the student’s usual style, tone and other linguistic characteristics. As always, a software tool can only flag issues that may deserve further investigation and interpretation by experts in the field.