At the European Conference on Academic Integrity and Plagiarism 2021, I presented a research study I’d been working on with Benjamin Dent, a BEng Computing student at Imperial College London.
We collected and analysed data from the Freelancer.com website, relating to contract cheating requests for written student work. This is a site I’ve used for data collection before, but with Ben’s help, we were able to increase the amount of data involved and also focus specifically on contract cheating requests for essays, reports and other forms of writing, as opposed to my own earlier work with this site, where many of the examples I’ve identified have focused on computing assignments, such as programming.
You can see the slides we used below (and also on my SlideShare account).
We do intend to document more of this work in a research paper, but some of the findings that stood out to me included:
- the single largely discipline we saw represented in the data set was business, with the associated areas of management and marketing also ranking highly. This matches closely the findings from other studies I’ve been involved with on other sites
- a worrying trend was the requests for work in the medical and health fields. As well as student work, we found requests for ghostwriters to prepare medical research for submission to peer reviewed journals.
- students are requesting PhD proposals, with the intention of getting course places they don’t deserve, depriving other students of the opportunity (and also potentially getting funding or scholarships that they do not deserve). There are also requests to have thesis chapters written, for doctoral work and at other levels of study, but these are not always public, since once a student finds a good writer, they can keep working with them independently to the observable system.
The site we looked at is just one site through which assignments can be purchased. This one shows a lot of information visibly, but there are many hundreds of similar sites within which all the information is hidden. It is fairly safe to assume that the trends we observed are recreated elsewhere many times over.