Applebone, Peter. "On Internet Sites, Term-Paper Files Become Hot Items," New York Times 8

 

Applebone, Peter. "On Internet Sites, Term-Paper Files Become Hot Items," New York Times 8
June 1997, pp. 1, 30.

When Bill Clinton vowed that every 12-year-old in America would be able to log onto the
Internet, he probably did not have in mind logging on to the Evil House of Cheat or Cheater.com
to download term papers on "Hamlet,U' Crazy Horse or Mayan architecture.

But many educators are increasingly alarmed or furious about the spread of dozens of Web sites
offering such illicit help. They include traditional term-paper mills and guerrilla operations
designed by college students in their dormitories, all together offering tens of thousands of term
papers that can easily be downloaded and turned in by students as their own work.

It is not clear how many students actually submit, under their own names, papers that have been
obtained from the Internet. But the spread of the term-paper sites highlights a problem that has
many educators veering between optimism about the Internet, seeing it as a scholar's dream of
access to unlimited information, and concern that it has become a slacker's paradise of free
computer games, pornography and term papers.

"A lot of people download papers and just change the names," said Samantha Brenner, a
17-year-old junior at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan. "There aren't a lot of original papers
that get written any. more. I just think it's the latest way to be lazy."

Many students say that their peers are more likely to use the papers for ideas than to submit them
outright and that the fear of getting caught makes the on-line papers more a diversion than an
invitation to wide-scale plagiarism. But the flood of information to be used or abused at sites
with hundreds of thousands of viewers explains the ambivalence many educators feel these days
toward the ubiquity of the Internet in academic culture.

"Sometimes the Internet is the library and sometimes it's the mall, and though I love big
metaphors, l haven't found one for the Web," said Tom Rocklin, director of the Center for
Teaching at the University of Iowa, who has written a paper about the on-line term-paper sites. "
It seems to be too many things at once to get into a metaphor.

"I know some faculty members think there's a real evil genie out there. I don't see a reason to
panic but it's definitely made something that's been out there in the past much easier to do."

It does not take an Internet wizard to find term papers on the net. Typing in "term papers" on any
of the big search engines immediately brings up long lists of sites that sell or give away term
papers or write them to order.

Whether it is "Post-Modern Ethnography," "Aphasia and the Acquisition of Syntax," "Theme
and Image of Women in Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio and Rabelais" or "Prenatal Care: A
Cost-Benefit Analysis," papers on almost any subject are available.

Sales of term papers are not new. Companies who do research have advertised on campuses and
in publications like Rolling Stone for years. And every university has stories of fraternity-house
filing cabinets stuffed with term papers.

What is new is the number of places where papers are available, the ease with which they can be
obtained and the often brazen ways that do-it-yourself Internet sites now flaunt the ability to
cheat and plagiarize electronically.

Most established for-profit sites in elude elaborate disclaimers, saying that the information can be
used for research purposes but not submitted as a student's own work, though purchasers often
have other intentions It is illegal in most states to sell papers with the expectation that they will
be handed in as students' work.

But many less professional sites are far less circumspect.

"So what time is it?" the Cheat Factory site reads. "When is that assignment due? When did you
get the assignment? Oh well, what can we say, check out our files and take whatever you wish!"

Salvatore Ciampa, a 21-year-old student at York University in Toronto, who set up his fledgling
site and does not charge for papers, said he did not have time to put on his site all the papers
coming his way and had no problem with students' choosing to use the papers as their own.

"I guess I just like the attention," said Mr. Ciampa.

It is clear that at least some of the papers are finding their ways into classrooms as original
papers.

Anthony Krier, a reference librarian at Franklin Pierce College in Rindge, N.H., said that he had
received more than 500 requests from teachers and deans, worried about plagiarism, for a list he
had put together identifying about 50 sites on the Internet that offer term papers.

About 25 inquiries, he said, have come from teachers and professors who had already caught
students using on-line papers under their own names. A handful of the requests for his list, he
said, came from students, apparently seeking access to the sites for improper purposes.

"This seems to be snowballing," said Mr. Krier, who said that he now finds twice as many sites
as he did when he first looked in January.

Often, the commercial sites charge from $6 to $10 a page. Compounding the problem the number
of papers that are posted on academic or personal home pages.

Dorian Berger, who just finished his freshman year at Harvard University, said he had posted a
number of his papers on the Internet so they could be read by more people. He said it soon
become clear that his site had become a favorite of students trawling for good reports to copy or
lift material from.

"I am now getting E-mails from people from around the world asking for papers on every
conceivable topic," Mr. Berger said, adding, . "I feel that I am some type of multinational
cheating company when all I wanted to do was offer my papers as research information to people
on the Internet."

While some educators are alarmed, many say that the benefits of the Internet far outweigh the
limitations.

Bruce Leland, an English professor who is director of writing at Western Illinois University, said
the sites were a challenge to professors to do their jobs better. He said teachers who tailored
assignments to work done in class, monitored the students' progress from outline to completion,
rather than just seeing a finished work and were alert to papers that were radical departures from
a student's past work were unlikely to be fooled.

"I don't want this to be yet another reason for people to say, ‘Yes, the Internet is something evil
there's corrupting our youth,'" Professor Leland said. He added that many online papers were so
bad that no one was likely to benefit from them.

"Everyone who is mortal has at least one flaw," begins one less-than A-quality paper on
"Macbeth." "Some are more serious than others. For example, some people have addictions to
gambling, while other people can't remember to put the milk away after they use it. After a while
though, a person's flaws come back to haunt them. The tragedy ‘Macbeth' is no exception to
this."

Still, the term-paper sites are a reminder that the Internet is far more of a mixed blessing than it
sometimes appears to politicians.

"If this is the information superhighway," Mr. Berger said, "it's going through a lot of bad, bad
neighborhoods."