Saturday, August 19, 2006

Instant Theses.

The growing trend to employ what the media refer to as “performance enhancing drugs” to enable athletes to outperform non drug users, used to be referred to rather more directly as “cheating.” And the art of cheating seems to be growing apace, so much so that it can only be a matter of time before it appears on the A-Plus curriculum along with existing useless rubbish such as Film, TV and Media studies.

This became apparent to me the other day when I was contacted by a young man (I’m assuming he was young) who enquired if I would edit a thesis he was preparing for his doctorate. He had, he said, two dissertations plus some charts, graphs and statistics from a publication that he needed to have melded into a composite whole for presentation.

He himself was too busy to do the job and he estimated that it would only take about a day of cutting and pasting to the order with which he would provide me in the shape of an index. There was no need to do any creative writing – it was all there in the abstracts.

The material duly arrived by E-Mail and I was struck by the loftily academic tone of the two pieces. It seemed odd to me that someone with such a grasp of the subject was unable to simply rewrite the material. The Graphs etc. were also to be derived from an existing publication which gave me some concern over the possible infringement of their copyright.

As you know, Word documents (and most other word processors) include a handy little file which will tell you the authorship, always providing that the author has identified himself, and it was to this that I turned.

Not really much to my surprise, I found that the documents were not my correspondent’s own unaided work. In fact they were not his work at all, but had been provided, at a cost £9.99 each, by a company located in the Mile End Road, East London.

In my day in London, the Mile End Road would have been a pretty unlikely hangout for the academia of the city but it seems times have changed, for in that flowery environ there is located Papers4You, an outfit that will supply you with, as it says, just the paper for you. No more sweating in a stuffy library researching the subject, just send them your credit card details and, Bingo!, back comes your thesis. It does come, admittedly, with the caveat that you aren’t supposed to crib the whole thing and only to use it as a basis for your own work, but as Tom Lehrer wrote, “Plagiarise, plagiarise….. but be sure to call it research.”

Perhaps the students who make use of this “service” are not to be blamed too much. I, and a good many others, might have welcomed the chance of spending more time in the pub, for such a modest cost, while others did the donkey work.

But it is surely the academic authors in the pay of Papers4You, who have the temerity to list their names and qualifications on the company website, that should be ashamed of themselves.

I always knew that prostitution was the oldest profession but never realised until now that it could also lead to helping others to a university degree.


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