Write Your Own Essays (No Excuses)

Photo from Binghampton University (used by permission) 

Photo from Binghampton University (used by permission) 

It’s finals season. It’s stressful. Students are stressed about essays and exams and grades and all the studying they’ve put off for the semester. This makes it a good moment to write about something I’ve had on my mind for a long while now—something that has probably crossed the radar of most students and has hopefully never been utilized by readers here. I have a bit of a rant for you today—essay writing services.

Don’t use them.

I’m not going to link to any of these websites—I don’t want to have any part in spreading the word. But suffice to say there are companies out there who you can pay to write your essays for you. You can find these people online, and they will guarantee original research and writing, sometimes turned around in very short amounts of time.

You should never, ever pay someone to write your essays for you.

Reason 1: It's Your Education

The first (and sufficient in its own right) reason you should not do this is because essay writing is a key part of your education. The education that you are paying for. Writing is part of communicating what you have learned, and proving that you have learned it. It’s your chance to synthesize the information you have been provided, and to turn this into an argument of your own. These are essential skills which will serve you well in the real world.

Find someone else to write an essay for you is admitting defeat. It is a shallow and cowardly way to avoid doing the work that will make your college education real.

While I can imagine multiple scenarios in which such a service might be tempting (you’ve procrastinated, you don’t understand the material well, something else in your life is more interesting, etc.), I cannot imagine a single circumstance in which making this decision could be justified. If you are in a situation where you will not be able to complete the work on time, you should either

A) approach your instructor (or head of department) with the valid reasons for a late assignment, and ask for a reasonable extension based on your circumstances;

or

B) accept the consequences of turning in incomplete, late, or sub-par work.

Those are your options.

I have turned in late assignments. I have turned in work I was not happy with, and work that could have used an extra few days of research and editing. I have, on occasion, requested an extension for an assignment I could not complete on time and have accepted the (generally quite reasonable) penalties for doing so.

College can get overwhelming. There are many competing demands on each student’s energy, focus, and effort. There are good reasons for sometimes failing to do work that meets your usual standards, or failing to meet a deadline.

There is never an excuse for paying someone to do this work for you.

Reason 2: It’s Plagiarism

In looking through one of these essay writing websites recently, I was surprised to see a company claim that “no university prohibits the use of paid essay services.” Now, on the first hand that’s a lie and a little hunting around online proves it. But a university doesn’t have to name this practice explicitly, because paying someone else to write your essay for you is plagiarism. Clean and simple. If you put your name on something you did not write, and you hand this over to your professor and claim it as your own, you are committing a deeply unethical and clear-cut act of academic dishonesty.

A side point on this topic as someone who has graded hundreds of undergraduate essays while working as a Graduate Teaching Fellow—you will almost certainly get caught. Passages that don’t ring true can be checked, and an essay that reads differently from a student’s previous work will raise red flags.

If you do this, you will almost certainly get caught. 

 

I do want to say here that I don’t think that considering this option makes someone a bad person. We’ve probably all been in some situation where we’ve thought “if only I could just get this taken off my hands…” (I feel that way any time I have to fill out a form of any kind, for example). It’s human nature to be self-pitying from time to time, and to attempt to avoid unpleasant tasks.

HOWEVER, you are a student. You are in pursuit of a degree that will help to advance your life, both in the knowledge you have gained and the credentials you have earned.

You should earn these for yourself.

I also want to make a distinction here, in favor of peer editing and seeking assistance from your peers and campus tutors. As I’ve written about several times in the past, I place enormous value on peer editing, both as a resource for the writer and as the person offering the editing services. Likewise, if you feel that your writing is not up to par and you need assistance, it is absolutely acceptable to ask for help—from peer assistants on campus or from tutors.

The key difference between asking for help and employing someone to write for you is who is doing the bulk of the work. Whose words and ideas make up the argument? Who has done the research? Who could explain the opinions offered, or carry the thoughts further, if given the chance?

Essay writing is not always easy. Often it is taken on at the last moment and with a sense of near-despair. But it is worth it. For your inward sense of pride, for your personal growth, and for solidifying what you have learned.

Write your own essays. Please, please—write your own essays.