There are many sites which try to make money out of students by inducing them to cheat. At La Trobe, students can be expelled for this sort of serious academic misconduct.
Some cheat sites sell essay writing services or invite tenders for assignments; while some others appear at first glance to be collaborative study circles, but in actuality they invite students to share assessment answers.
You can do a Google Search for 'essays' in your subject area, and you can also do a search for an assignment question. Be aware though, you might have the awful experience of seeing your assessment task up for tender.
How can you tell?
A discrepancy in the marks a student received could indicate that a ghost writer was used for one of the tasks. Other signs include reference to sources not on the class list and use of anachronistic language.
If you suspect that a text that was not written by the student claiming to be its author, you can check for style. There has been some work in the development of automated tools to analyse and report on language style and patterns, but as yet, this hasn't proven any more successful than manually comparing a student's texts and looking for style differences between texts. Important style markers include inconsistencies in:
- the types of verbs used,
- commonly used phrases and joining words,
- length of sentences,
- referencing style, and
- punctuation and formatting.
What can you do?
- You can inform students that you know about cheat sites and that the penalty is expulsion.
- You can ask students to review a ghost written essay, so they can see it is not worth purchasing such a poor quality text. WriteCheck tested the products of two cheat sites and found them to be poorly written with multiple errors and failing to meet the assessment criteria.
- Get some more deterrence ideas from David Tomar, a former ghost writer, who presents his views in 'Detecting and Deterring Ghostwritten Papers: A Guide to Best Practices'. He argues that students whose writing is poor are more likely to seek ghost writers, so it is vital to provide struggling students with academic language and learning support.