About Thomas Lancaster

I am an experienced Computer Science academic, best known for research work into academic integrity, plagiarism and contract cheating. I have held leadership positions in several universities, with specialty in student recruitment and keen interest in working in partnership with students. Please browse around the blog and the links, and feel free to leave your thoughts.
Website: http://thomaslancaster.co.uk
Thomas Lancaster has written 143 articles so far, you can find them below.


Buy An Essay – Essay Mills And Contract Cheating Pricing (Infographic)

How much does it cost to buy an original bespoke essay from an essay mill or other contract cheating provider?

The cost can vary substantially, even though many essay mills work with the same pool of writers, or at least workers with very similar backgrounds and experience.

This infographic illustrates the range of prices a prospective student would come across when looking to purchase a 2000 word essay.

The pricing, correct as of August 2018, is wide ranging. At the bottom end of the market, workers in the equivalent of essay factory “sweat shops” are expected to toil away for just £3 GBP ($4 USD) (see slide 42 of the link). At the so-called top end, there are companies who won’t even start looking at an essay before a payment of £800 GBP ($1057 USD) is received (source https://www.academicghostwriting.com/costs).

A typical service with UK offices asks for £279 GBP ($369 USD), although there are ways to further discount that price (source https://www.ukessays.com/quote.php).

In one of my own experiments, I connected directly with writers and found that most wanted £15 GBP ($20 USD) to complete the work. Had I proposed a lower price point, I’m sure that the quotes I received would also have been lower. And the typical £15 offer I received is still much more than the writer could expect to end up with had they worked with an essay mill taking their cut.

What About Buying A Dissertation?

Everything about the essay industry is negotiable. Here, for example, an essay mill original quoted a nursing dissertation price at £870 GBP ($1148 USD), but proposed a new price of £600 GBP ($792 USD) when the customer wavered only slightly.

Further discounting would have been possible. As my previous analysis has shown, essay mills pay huge referral bonuses for those affiliates bringing in new customers (see slide 53 of the link). This makes it clear that essay mills have lots of movement on pricing. This still leaves room for them to profit, even after they have paid their writers – an amount for the writer which often works out as a tiny percentage of the amount that the essay mill is paid.

Even though students may pay more (and take on the risk of being scammed or blackmailed) the cost of hiring an essay writer directly is low. Setting assessments that are not easy and cheap to outsource, those “bread and butter” type requests that contract cheating providers love such as basic business assignments and marketing assignments, is of importance for the continued integrity of education.

Addressing Contract Cheating and Other Threats to Academic Integrity – Keynote Presentation at University of Wolverhampton

The world of contract cheating continues to progress. I was asked to speak about this for a keynote address at the University of Wolverhampton, which allowed me to bring together many of the latest findings in the contract cheating and academic integrity fields.

The slides I used are available on my SlideShare account. They are also included below.


During the presentation, I showed how easy how cheap and easy outsourcing is (you can see a video promoting the fictitious essay mill Werewolf Essays here). I also considered how contract cheating companies are now able to get their advertising out through university channels themselves, including university social media accounts.

The presentation was accompanied by lots of questions, including relating to the technology surrounding the academic cheating industry, which is becoming something of a trend at events like this now.

The Progression Of The Exam Cheating Industry – Conference Keynote Presentation On Exam Integrity

That companies and individuals are helping students to cheat in exams is something that higher education should be concerned about. This is not just small time business. Exam cheating is an entire industry.

In a keynote presentation I gave at the Higher Education Quality Network conference, themed Assessment, Integrity, Review and held in Melbourne, Australia, I explored the issues surrounding exam cheating and the integrity of future examinations.

This is a real issue, particularly where assessment by examination is being considered as a response to plagiarism and contract cheating. There is, however, also good practice than can be gained from how exams are conducted in a professional environment.

The slides I used are available on my SlideShare account. They are also included below.


So much exam cheating is supported by technology that is easily concealed. Supplying that technology is big business. It is more useful to think about alternative ways to use examinations as part of the assessment process than to try to simply react to the ever changing technology game.

Contract Cheating – What Do Those People Who Teach Need To Know?

The level of interest in contract cheating has changed beyond all recognition in the last year. Along with this, so has the volume of research being produced.

That makes it harder than ever to fit key insights into a one hour seminar.

My latest attempt to do this came with a session, aimed towards teaching staff, held at Deakin University.

The slides I used are available on my SlideShare account. They are also included below.


One fresh idea I did include was based around profiling students in order to help with an understanding of why they may be drawn towards contract cheating. In the entrepreneurial environment of higher education, where students are used to multi-tasking, this could be seen as more than just a means to an end.

Investigating Contract Cheating and Breaches of Academic Integrity

How to investigate contract cheating and what type of evidence is appropriate for an academic integrity hearing?

I explored this issue as part of a workshop held at Deakin University. It’s a university that is proactive in promoting academic integrity values to students and detecting contract cheating, but also knows that there are challenges in doing this fairly and consistently.

The slides I used are available on my SlideShare account. They are also included below.


As part of the presentation, I suggested twelve types of evidence that could be collected and taken to an academic integrity hearing. These are explored more in the slides (and were discussed), but these are:

1 – Writing style – is the consistent with other work by the student?
2 – Document properties – does the metadata suggest this was not produced by the student?
3 – Essay mill layout – is this presented perfectly, but with style over substance?
4 – Contextual concept – does this use ideas that the student would be unfamiliar with?
5 – Public websites – is the assignment specification on a freelancing website or viewable essay mill?
6 – Student mark profile – is there consistency between student performance in supervised and unsupervised environments, in similar tasks?
7 – Access logs – has the student accessed module resources in an expected way and from known locations? Have they accessed inappropriate resources from the university network?
8 – Turnitin report – is the similarity score too low? Does this indicate any surprises in the sources used?
9 – Authenticity viva – can the student discuss their work?
10 – Assessment production process – can the student show their interim work on demonstrate that they were working on the assignment over a period of time?
11 – Verification tasks – can the student complete a task based on their work in a controlled environment?
12 – Opportunity to own up – there can be advantages to everyone in allowing students to discuss their situation with an independent advisor and bypassing a formal hearing where students agree they have contract cheated.

A single one of these indicators may not be enough to be sure that a student has contract cheated, but several of them, used together, could provide appropriate evidence. All of this assumes that university policies and regulations allow these types of evidence to be used.

I concluded the workshop by suggesting that the design of assessment tasks which automatically allow for the collection of some evidence could be the way forward. Now, in an ideal world, this would never be used, but collecting evidence in this way can help to streamline the process, as well as to protect the majority of students who are acting with academic integrity.

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