Reading & Literacy

Essay Producer Warns of Plagiarism by Athletes

By Sean Cavanagh — February 26, 2008 1 min read
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Online bidding—for concert tickets, used furniture, rare books—is everywhere on the Internet these days. Another item subject to Web-based auctions: school essays.

The possible use of those essays by high school sports coaches seeking to help top athletes was brought to light recently by an unusual source: a British-based company that arranges sales of those written works., an online service run by Academic Answers Ltd., based in Letchworth, England, allows customers to request essays on various topics—and have writers bid to provide them, and suggest a fee.

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For more stories on this topic see Technology.

This month, issued a press release saying it had received a request from a U.S. private high school coach for seven essays on the same topic, written in different styles. The company said the coach—whom it would not identify—later explained that he was attempting to boost the college résumés of a few stellar athletes. also said a recent client survey showed that more than 45 percent of its customers said they were using the service to raise academic scores to “finalize sports scholarships,” often with coaches’ consent.

John M. Barrie, the founder and chief executive officer of Turnitin, an Oakland, Calif.-based anti-plagiarism service, said it was “disingenuous” for services such as to alert the public to possible academic fraud, when they in fact make it easier.

He believes his service, which enables teachers and others to check for plagiarism, can help “students to understand they’re wasting their money” on such sites.

Jed Hallam, a spokesman for Academic Answers, said writers who sell their work through can require that they be credited. Many of the essays of and Academic Answers—services that have stirred controversy in the United Kingdom because of their work—are used as “study guides and model answers,” Mr. Hallam added, but that depends on the buyer-seller agreement.

Even so, company officials also felt it important that the use of papers by coaches “be brought to light,” he added.

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A version of this article appeared in the February 27, 2008 edition of Education Week


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