Essay mills are companies that provide original essays on a given topic for anyone who pays for these services. The students would provide the mills with the necessary details; such as page length, the topic and a specific time frame within which they would like the work to be completed. The customer then has to pay a certain amount of money per page. Essay mills hire writers who ghostwrite academic essays and term papers. They essentially seek out their business from high school, university and college students. There are varying degrees of restraints on these businesses based in different jurisdictions, but all institutions of learning deem these services as academic fraud. However, this is purely dependent on how the services are actually used.
Beyond the stringent rules of academic institutions with regards to the originality of essays and term papers, essay mills do not commit fraud, nor do they engage in any activity that can be called criminal as they do not break any laws. Essay mills in the technical sense are for people who would like to see examples of TOK essays, research papers, dissertations, informative essay outlines, etc., which they will then use as guides for their assignments. If looked at from this perspective, then there is no difference with a client requesting a writer for a specific journal article. There might be ethical considerations where essay mills are concerned but legally, there is no law that is broken. The same question can be posed in the gun debate. Are guns illegal? No, they are not. But shooting people in the streets is illegal.
Essays from essay mills are original essays, written by another person who is contracted for that purpose, and the student pays for the essays, thus owning the right to that paper now. How the students use these essays is what determines whether academic dishonesty has been committed or not. Academic dishonesty should not be the purpose for why students want to engage in essay mill services. The legality of essay mills is not in question, as a majority of them market themselves as companies that offer students examples for reference so that they can learn how to write. Many of them also give pointers for research and writing which can be highly beneficial for struggling students. When you look at it from this perspective, it does not fit the criteria for academic dishonesty. What makes it academic dishonesty is when the students hand in the papers they get from the essays mills as opposed to using them as reference points. They should always be seen as examples and learning tools to help them develop their research and enhance their own writing skills so that they can do their assignments themselves.
The Perspective of Student vs Essay Mills
From the perspective of the student, there might be some ethical considerations when engaging the services of essay mills. When students hand in essays that they have not written themselves, then this can obviously be considered ethically wrong. What can be said with certainty is that the student is paying for work that is not their own, and if they receive a grade that they do not deserve as per academic institution standards, that is where it becomes unethical. The essay mills and writers, on the other hand, are simply producing a product. Their services are contracted, and they write on demand, and for pay.
Essay mills do not engage in deceit or fraud, and there is essentially no difference between the essay mills and other writing professions. Essay mills are simply tools that the student engages in. The student can use these essay mills to improve their writing skills or pay them to do their essays, term papers, outlines or dissertations. Most essay mills market themselves as offering essay writing services as examples and pointers for students to help them read and practice their writing skills as well as for research purposes. This would suggest that when their essays are presented as the student’s original work then the fault lies with the student and not the essay mills.
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