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Old 10-18-2019, 08:19 AM
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Term Paper Writing Services; How Illegal?


I am looking to retire next year. I thought it might be worth working for (not establishing) one of those term-paper writing services. They seem to be based in either the US or UK.


Were I to undertake such projects, would I be committing a crime?
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Old 10-18-2019, 08:25 AM
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Make sure you don't sell your services anywhere in Australia
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Old 10-18-2019, 09:07 AM
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I presume I would not be selling anything to anyone save the service. That is what I'm telling the judge.
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Old 10-18-2019, 09:16 AM
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I'm pretty sure this is like having a massage studio in a strip mall. There's a completely above-board way to do it (in this case, by tutoring and coaching on writing without doing the actual research and writing for the assignment) and people doing it successfully, but it's going to be difficult to attract the market for the above-board services while convincing the market for less-above-board services that you're really not offering that. Plus the less-legal services are far more lucrative.

Or, did I misunderstand the question, and you are fine helping students cheat as long as you're not legally on the hook?
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Old 10-18-2019, 09:20 AM
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First, to answer the question with any reliability, we need a lot more facts than you have offered. Where are you offering and performing the services? How are you advertising them? What representations are you making to customers? What have the users told you about how they will use the services? The answer to your question depends on the answers to these and many more. I will just say that I suspect there are many ways these services could be offered and performed legally in some places, many ways they could be illegal in those same places, and some places where I suspect they will be illegal almost no matter what you do.
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Old 10-18-2019, 09:21 AM
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The writing of a term paper is constituted of two separable components:

a) The argument, research results, or other intellectual content

b) The expression of that in coherent words and phrases, rendered in grammatically correct English


Composing part A for someone else (for money, or other considerations, or even for free) is illegal and violates the educational process.

Cleaning up and tuning someone's paper -- doing the Part B stuff -- may not be, although that would depend on the class for which the paper was due. It pretty obviously would not be a legitimate endeavor for a grammar and composition class, an ESL course, etc. But if the course is Chemistry, or Anthropology? If the grade does not officially depend on one's ability to write English well, the argument can be made that foreign exchange students, or students whose strengths lie in places other than the art of the well-written paragraph, should not be forced to work at a disadvantage, getting lousy grades because the brilliance or accuracy of what they're describing or reporting on is obscured by the fact that they can't write their way out of a paper bag.

I did it as an undergrad for awhile, advertising myself in the student newspaper as the "Mad Manic Term Paper Mechanic". It was out in the open and professors knew I was doing it.

I got a shitload of students thoroughly expecting me to write the paper for them (the Part A stuff). It's kind of like opening a legitimate qi gong tui-na massage place. There will be people who absolutely assume the service you are offering includes stuff you didn't intend it to include.

I quit doing it pretty quickly because of that.

ETA: damn you Quercus! Ninja'd!

Last edited by AHunter3; 10-18-2019 at 09:22 AM.
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Old 10-18-2019, 09:31 AM
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Whether or not it's illegal, if my students are caught using such a service, it's plagiarism and they could be expelled from the university.
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Old 10-18-2019, 09:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Paul in Qatar View Post
I am looking to retire next year. I thought it might be worth working for (not establishing) one of those term-paper writing services. They seem to be based in either the US or UK.
The services may be based in the US or the UK, but per this article from last month's New York Times, many of the writers are overseas in lower-cost countries where many people speak English but presumably are cheaper than Westerners. The article mentions Kenya, India and Ukraine.
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Old 10-18-2019, 10:11 AM
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I'm surprised they even still exist with sites like TurnItIn, where the student needs to upload their paper to some portal that compares it to a known database & other students submitted papers to check on the percentage of similarity. Too much & it flags it for the professor before they even see it.
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Old 10-18-2019, 10:31 AM
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TurnItIn is why these services exist; you need to get someone else to write an original paper for you now, rather than just copying and pasting one from the Internet.
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Old 10-18-2019, 10:34 AM
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is ghost writing term papers actually illegal in the U.S.? Sure, I'll agree it is unethical, but I don't have any knowledge of it actually being criminalized in the U.S.

Anyone got any citations for that?

I'm sure the schools would want to make everyone think it is illegal, but that could be a ruse.
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Old 10-18-2019, 10:42 AM
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What kinds of laws is the student breaking by turning in such a paper? The student obtained the paper legally, by contracting with PiQ to write it. I'm sure it's against school policy to turn it in, but what legal laws are being broken? Would it legally be considered fraud?

How would what PiQ be doing be illegal? Would it be because he was an accessory to the crime the student was committing? Being paid to write a research paper is not a crime. It happens all the time for legitimate reasons, such as a company hiring consultants to do research and analysis. I would think that as long as PiQ didn't explicitly know what was going to happen to the paper, he would be in the clear.
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Old 10-18-2019, 10:45 AM
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They got me doing my audition paper, Were the Dark Ages Really All That Dark? Would it be ethical if I asked someone to help me write it?
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Old 10-18-2019, 11:06 AM
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Composing part A for someone else (for money, or other considerations, or even for free) is illegal and violates the educational process.
What statute does it violate? Obviously plagiarism is against the rules at all educational institutions, and can result in penalties up to expulsion and even deleterious consequences in later employment, but that doesn't make it illegal. And in this case, the OP wouldn't even be committing plagiarism; his clients would be.

I'm not trying to pretend that writing papers for pay is fine ethically, but that wasn't the question asked. The OP asked if he would be committing a crime. Abetting plagiarism may be a crime in some jurisdiction so far as I know, but I am not presently aware of any such jurisdictions excluding the Australian draft legislation linked in post 2.
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Old 10-18-2019, 11:33 AM
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One of my nephews loved college so much that he got several different degrees. At one point he was employed by a company to write papers. He explained to me that the idea is for the student to read the paper and see how it was done, then to go write one on their own. (that was the justification the company told their employees, anyway)

It may have been shady af, but as far as I know he never broke a law.
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Old 10-18-2019, 11:42 AM
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They got me doing my audition paper, Were the Dark Ages Really All That Dark? Would it be ethical if I asked someone to help me write it?
Damn, there goes another irony meter.
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Old 10-18-2019, 11:44 AM
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What statute does it violate? Obviously plagiarism is against the rules at all educational institutions, and can result in penalties up to expulsion and even deleterious consequences in later employment, but that doesn't make it illegal. And in this case, the OP wouldn't even be committing plagiarism; his clients would be.

I'm not trying to pretend that writing papers for pay is fine ethically, but that wasn't the question asked. The OP asked if he would be committing a crime. Abetting plagiarism may be a crime in some jurisdiction so far as I know, but I am not presently aware of any such jurisdictions excluding the Australian draft legislation linked in post 2.
Hmm, good point. I think I was thinking in terms of agreements that we as students sign on to when we enroll, and considering those to be legally binding... but the OP wasn't positioning himself as a student within the institution so that's not relevant, is it?
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Old 10-18-2019, 11:50 AM
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What statute does it violate? Obviously plagiarism is against the rules at all educational institutions, and can result in penalties up to expulsion and even deleterious consequences in later employment, but that doesn't make it illegal. And in this case, the OP wouldn't even be committing plagiarism; his clients would be.

I'm not trying to pretend that writing papers for pay is fine ethically, but that wasn't the question asked. The OP asked if he would be committing a crime. Abetting plagiarism may be a crime in some jurisdiction so far as I know, but I am not presently aware of any such jurisdictions excluding the Australian draft legislation linked in post 2.
IANAL (is anyone who's posted so far?) but it looks like this falls under the category of fraud. The student is attempting to gain something of value (a degree) and the term paper service is supplying the student with the tools.

I suppose the paper writing service would cite its disclaimers, "don't use this to cheat," to claim the student misused the service. And that's why we have courts and lawyers to fight this out.
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Old 10-18-2019, 12:06 PM
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IANAL (is anyone who's posted so far?) but it looks like this falls under the category of fraud. The student is attempting to gain something of value (a degree) and the term paper service is supplying the student with the tools.
IAAL. It's unlikely to qualify as criminal fraud because the link between the paper and the "thing of value" is attenuated. If the student submits somebody else's paper to get a scholarship, there is a clear nexus, but that is not so clear when the prize is a degree since a paper is just one of many graded assignments. Plus, under federal law, the intent must be to secure money or property. A college degree is neither.
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Old 10-18-2019, 12:09 PM
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Again, the question isn't whether the student committed a crime but whether the author of the paper did so.
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Old 10-18-2019, 12:13 PM
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Again, the question isn't whether the student committed a crime but whether the author of the paper did so.
If the student commits a crime (and I'm not certain about that question) then the author has to be (theoretically) concerned about conspiracy and aiding and abetting charges. The "wink wink, this isn't for you to turn in as your own" would not get you very far with a prosecutor or jury, if it ever came to that.
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Old 10-18-2019, 12:38 PM
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Whether or not it's illegal, if my students are caught using such a service, it's plagiarism and they could be expelled from the university.
And if I found out that either of my kids were having someone else do their work for them, they'd be in seriously deep trouble.

I wish the OP would answer the questions people are asking him instead of trying to be cute.

Last edited by tricoteuse; 10-18-2019 at 12:38 PM.
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Old 10-18-2019, 12:43 PM
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The writing of a term paper is constituted of two separable components:

a) The argument, research results, or other intellectual content

b) The expression of that in coherent words and phrases, rendered in grammatically correct English


Composing part A for someone else (for money, or other considerations, or even for free) is illegal and violates the educational process.
...
Illegal? In the USA? Cite?

Unethical, sure.
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Old 10-18-2019, 12:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Paul in Qatar View Post
I am looking to retire next year. I thought it might be worth working for (not establishing) one of those term-paper writing services. They seem to be based in either the US or UK.


Were I to undertake such projects, would I be committing a crime?
According to Wikipedia, so-called "essay mills" have found themselves civilly and criminally liable in various jurisdictions for abetting educational fraud.

Last edited by HMS Irruncible; 10-18-2019 at 12:44 PM.
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Old 10-18-2019, 12:44 PM
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Unethical, yes. Illegal (in the US), no.

Cite.
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Old 10-18-2019, 12:48 PM
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Unethical, yes. Illegal (in the US), no.

Cite.
This is false.

Selling College Term Papers Online May Be A Crime

(the link details the various applicable statues).
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Old 10-18-2019, 01:00 PM
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This is false.

Selling College Term Papers Online May Be A Crime

(the link details the various applicable statues).
So, in some states it can be illegal, depending on which services are sold.
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Old 10-18-2019, 01:06 PM
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So, in some states it can be illegal, depending on which services are sold.
As I said, it is false to make the blanket statement that selling term papers is not illegal in the US. There are heavy caveats as to jurisdiction and exactly what sort of service you're providing.

Boggles the mind how people insist on answering a GQ with their own intuition, when tons of legal cites are just a Google search away.
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Old 10-18-2019, 01:11 PM
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As I said, it is false to make the blanket statement that selling term papers is not illegal in the US. There are heavy caveats as to jurisdiction and exactly what sort of service you're providing.

Boggles the mind how people insist on answering a GQ with their own intuition, when tons of legal cites are just a Google search away.
Sure, which is why I asked for a cite. It isnt illegal under federal law, of course.
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Old 10-18-2019, 01:56 PM
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Well, it might be. There's a good chance that there is a federal law mirroring one of the state laws mentioned in that post (though I should note that only two of the laws referenced are criminal statutes).
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Old 10-18-2019, 02:34 PM
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Boggles the mind how people insist on answering a GQ with their own intuition, when tons of legal cites are just a Google search away.
You mean like post #6 that people are replying to?

It's just as false to make a blanket statement that selling term papers IS illegal in the U.S.
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Old 10-18-2019, 03:09 PM
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It's just as false to make a blanket statement that selling term papers IS illegal in the U.S.
Indeed it is, which is why I didn't say that either.
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Old 10-18-2019, 03:18 PM
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I'm surprised they even still exist with sites like TurnItIn, where the student needs to upload their paper to some portal that compares it to a known database & other students submitted papers to check on the percentage of similarity. Too much & it flags it for the professor before they even see it.
TurnItIn isn't that great. I've only had a handful of professors use it. If everyone has to name their work the same thing (Like PSY 483: Essay #3) it will flag the name of the work on the title page as well as in every header. It will also note that I've plagiarized the students in my class. One time, I wrote a review of the film "As Good As It Gets" on how accurately it portrayed mental health issues. I got thousands of hits that I'd plagiarized real estate sites every time I mentioned the name of the film in the paper.

Sometimes it works, many times it doesn't.
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Old 10-18-2019, 05:12 PM
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It is not illegal to write for money. There are tons of sites, including some I've worked for, where there are requests for so many pages on such and such a subject, and freelancers bid on them. Now the problem with this site for me was that I don't work for free or even for cheap, and other people mostly undercut my bids. Another site was headed by a guy who was so skeevy that I couldn't stand to work for him.

Were some of the requests for term papers? It looked like it to me, but I didn't know. (Except for skeevy guy.) I know some of them weren't, for example sometimes the request would say that the writing in question was for a certain website and must conform to that website's style. But if you don't KNOW it's for somebody's term paper, for a grade, then it seems to me you're okay, ethically and legally.

I have a friend who gets assignments via her website. They're pretty diverse, and sometimes people ask for "academic diction." She writes them, they go wherever they go, sometimes (in fact quite often) with someone else's name on them. Illegal? No. Unethical? For either the writer or the end user? I don't think so.

I have in the past written a couple of editorials that went into daily papers under the name of some public official or another, as if they'd written them themselves. Illegal? No. Unethical? I don't think anyone would say so, certainly not the politicians in question. After all, it's well known that politicians hire speechwriters. Does anybody think Spiro Agnew came up with "nattering nabobs of negativism" on his own?

When I worked in a certain department for a university, one of my jobs was to take a paper someone had written, smooth it out, and make its style fit so that it could be sent off to a scholarly journal. In some cases these were student papers that were going out to the journals under the name of the instructor, not the student, and the same university that would expel a student for submitting work not his own were paying me to buff up a student's paper so that the instructor could submit work that was undeniably not his own. (Now maybe the student had agreed. I don't know.)

So set up a website saying you do writing and editing, and you're good. People do that. People hire other people to write stuff for all sorts of reasons. I don't think you need to do any special research to find out if what you're writing is for a website or somebody's class.

(I don't know whether it's a crime to write term papers for people to turn in for classes. I think a lot depends on the institution. At the time I did it, when I was a student myself, if a student was found to have submitted work not his own, it was cause for expulsion, or being put on probation, or getting an F on the paper, or failing the entire class, depending on various factors. But there was no down side for the person who wrote the paper. At some point the university changed its policy so that if the person who did the actual writing was connected to the institution of higher learning, that person was subject to the same punishment as the person submitting the paper. So I quit doing that. I did still type papers for people and being a good little typist I corrected misspellings and grammatical errors, and if I ran into an actual error of fact I mentioned it to whoever's paper it was. When I severed my connection with this institution I still kept on the right side, because they could always revoke my degree (although not, I think, for work I'd done before they instituted that policy.)

So, to answer the OP, I would say you could set up a site, and if you don't specifically say you're writing term papers, you should be okay.

I'm going to guess that you might make more money if you contacted the athletic department(s) of nearby colleges/unis and offered your services as a tutor. A person who helps them learn how to do the research. Or a person who, say, takes someone's notes and types them up in a certain format. Or who gives the paper a critical edit before it's submitted.
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Old 10-18-2019, 08:20 PM
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We've covered: It's bad and wrong and the students will fail if they get caught.

I want to point out that you won't make much either. I can order an entire novel to "self publish" on Amazon for a few hundred bucks. I'd look for a different line of income adjustment.
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Old 10-18-2019, 08:34 PM
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Does anybody think Spiro Agnew came up with "nattering nabobs of negativism" on his own?

Maybe not the best example here.
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Old 10-18-2019, 08:39 PM
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You can probably focus on services like proofreading, etc.
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Old 10-18-2019, 09:40 PM
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I'm going to guess that you might make more money if you contacted the athletic department(s) of nearby colleges/unis and offered your services as a tutor. A person who helps them learn how to do the research. Or a person who, say, takes someone's notes and types them up in a certain format. Or who gives the paper a critical edit before it's submitted.
I'll just note that, if the OP's information on his profile here is still accurate, he's located in Saudi Arabia, so that may not be as viable an idea as it would be in the U.S.
  #39  
Old 10-18-2019, 09:53 PM
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I wish the OP would answer the questions people are asking him instead of trying to be cute.

I was not trying to be cute. I was trying to be asleep. I am in Saudi Arabia and only now woke up. I have reviewed the comments and see little that needs my input. I am asking about legality, not morality.

As for the very modest audition project they asked me to do, I have found it harder than I expected. Given a real paper library I could have knocked it out in two or three hours. I am simply unfamiliar with quickly mining Kindle and online documents for cites.

I have ordered a few books and will give the task a few more hours before my deadline runs out. I admit it has been a bit humbling.

I suppose one would get very good at such a thing with practice.

Thank you all for your comments.
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Last edited by Paul in Qatar; 10-18-2019 at 09:53 PM.
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Old 10-18-2019, 10:02 PM
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You ordered books to complete the audition paper? Isn't that going to cost you more than you could possibly make?
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Old 10-18-2019, 10:09 PM
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Probably so. It is an interesting topic and I am not really ready to admit defeat. I started this little adventure yesterday as I was having a slow weekend.

"It has been a learning experience." I think I have learned there is more to this than it seems.
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Old 10-19-2019, 04:22 AM
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Don't you care mostly about whether it is legal in Saudi Arabia, then? Something few of us would know? It seems unlikely that you'd be extradited for writing term papers, even if it turns out it is illegal in half the US states.
  #43  
Old 10-19-2019, 04:31 AM
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But if the course is Chemistry, or Anthropology? If the grade does not officially depend on one's ability to write English well
Who says that in those disciplines it doesn't? In fact, not only has "learning to write in an academically-correct manner" one of the purposes of term papers for any discipline, but with emphasis on form over function getting ever heavier, it's even gaining importance.

Journal referees do reject papers over misspellings and bad grammar, after all, even in subject in which misspellings do not kill*.






* In Chemistry, they do.
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Last edited by Nava; 10-19-2019 at 04:32 AM.
  #44  
Old 10-19-2019, 04:44 AM
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Journal referees do reject papers over misspellings and bad grammar, after all, even in subject in which misspellings do not kill*.

* In Chemistry, they do.
ene...ane...ine.... something like that
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Old 10-19-2019, 05:45 AM
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And of coused Gaudere hits me with a mallet: that should have been "subjects"
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Old 10-19-2019, 07:23 AM
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This sort of mass paper generation is ultimately the province of A.I. robots:
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Were the Dark Ages Really All That Dark?

A few years after the fall of Rome in the 4th and 5th centuries, Christianity was at the height of its power. Christianity was not only the faith of the Roman Empire and the Church, it was also the main religious culture and the center of social and military control in the Western world. The Church had been the only faith to survive the fall of the Roman Empire.

The Roman Empire was not just Rome; it was the center of power in the Western world.

So when Rome fell, what caused it to fall so quickly?

We can't say with total certainty what caused this violent collapse of the empire. It is possible that it was an act of God. However, what is known is that the fall of the empire was not entirely a result of natural or man-made factors. The fall of the Roman Empire was not caused by a meteor or an earthquake. It was not caused by a series of volcanic eruptions. Nor was it caused to some mysterious plague or a plague of locusts.
Quote:
Were the Dark Ages Really All That Dark?

A large majority of the early Church fathers were of the opinion that the Dark Ages were the darkest period in human history. The Church Fathers had more faith in God than they did in man. As it turns out, there was a large part of those early fathers who believed that the Dark Ages were a direct result of man's fall from the divinely created heavens to the Earth's surface.

The first of the great Fathers of the Church was Cyprian of Carthage (428-477 AD). This great man believed that the dark ages were the result of God's rejection of man and our fall from God's heavenly paradise into this earthly world. He taught that the Dark Ages were the result of man's rejection of God's plan and was part of God's punishment for man's rejection of God's divine promises.

The following quotations come from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

"It must be remarked that God has chosen men to reign on earth, and not to have all things under his dominion. It is possible, therefore...
There is still some room for improvement, to be sure.

Last edited by DPRK; 10-19-2019 at 07:24 AM.
  #47  
Old 10-19-2019, 09:27 AM
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Requests for legal advice go in IMHO. Moving.
  #48  
Old 10-19-2019, 01:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Nava View Post
...Journal referees do reject papers over misspellings and bad grammar, after all, even in subject in which misspellings do not kill*.

* In Chemistry, they do.
Wouldn't it just be sent to the author for revision?
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Old 10-19-2019, 01:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Paul in Qatar View Post
I was not trying to be cute. I was trying to be asleep. I am in Saudi Arabia and only now woke up. I have reviewed the comments and see little that needs my input. I am asking about legality, not morality.

As for the very modest audition project they asked me to do, I have found it harder than I expected. Given a real paper library I could have knocked it out in two or three hours. I am simply unfamiliar with quickly mining Kindle and online documents for cites.

I have ordered a few books and will give the task a few more hours before my deadline runs out. I admit it has been a bit humbling.

I suppose one would get very good at such a thing with practice.

Thank you all for your comments.
Professor here. I won't comment on the ethics, since you obviously don't care. Your reference to "a real paper library" and your inability to do online research (and whatever mining Kindle refers to) indicate that you are profoundly incapable of writing anything that will pass as an academic paper.
  #50  
Old 10-19-2019, 01:46 PM
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Originally Posted by puzzlegal View Post
Wouldn't it just be sent to the author for revision?
Nope. A paper that is that bad probably would get rejected by the editor before even being sent to reviewers. You wouldn't want to waste their time with a paper so sloppily written - sloppy writing implies sloppy thinking.
I've recommended rejection based on awful grammar, but it is rare, since most authors do better. This is engineering and computer science.
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