Stephen Greenblatt, a Shakespeare scholar at Harvard and a confessed “soft touch,” said the grade he would give [the Ophelia] paper “would depend, at least to some extent, on whether I thought I was reading the work of a green freshman — in which case I would probably give it a D+ and refer the student to the writing lab for counseling — or an English major, in which case I would simply fail it.”Hmmm... yeah, but you're thinking, I don't go to Harvard. Maybe I can still get by with it.
He added: “If I had paid for this, I would demand my money back.”
I hope teachers have a lot of ways to deal with the problem. Students who aren't cheating also write bad papers. It's not enough for students to know the web-bought papers will be fairly bad. They may be rather sure the paper they'd have to write would also be bad.
It's also not enough to use plagiarism detection search engines:
Thanks to search engines like Google, college instructors have become adept at spotting those shop-worn, downloadable papers that circulate freely on the Web, and can even finger passages that have been ripped off from standard texts and reference works.At least these search engines are causing the papers to get worse. If students know that -- and I'm trying to help here -- that's a disincentive.
A grade-conscious student these days seems to need a custom job, and to judge from the number of services on the Internet, there must be virtual mills somewhere employing armies of diligent scholars who grind away so that credit-card-equipped undergrads can enjoy more carefree time together.
One thing I would recommend to teachers is having paper topics that are very closely tied to the idiosyncratic way the material was presented in class, so that a researcher outside of the class (including a student who skipped class) would not be able to handle it properly.
Another alternative is to base the grade on a proctored exam, which is what I do. Even where the exam is open book, you can ask a question that is not generic, that is tied to the way the material was discussed in class, and that presents a specific question that cannot be anticipated beforehand. And then you have to have the nerve to grade so that only writing that answers the question can receive credit. That's my technique.