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Monday, 16 October, 2000, 14:57 GMT 15:57 UK
Online shopping for student essays
Computers
Universities can use anti-plagiarism software
Students are making money out of selling their essays on the internet.

A website is inviting students to submit their work to an online essay library - with the promise that they will receive 5 each time their essay is downloaded.

The website, Zarr's Student Zone, charges buyers 7.50 for essays, assignments or project work for degrees, A-levels and GCSEs - in a trade that has already raised concerns over the risk of plagiarism.


Anyone cheating in their assessed essays is likely to be found out ... as there will be a great discrepancy between their examination answers and essays

Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals
But one of the first people to sell their work through the website says that concerns over cheating are exaggerated.

Jan Johnson, who has had four buyers for a dissertation written for a financial services degree, says that tutors should be able to identify any wholesale insertions of other people's work.

"If you're cutting and pasting from someone else's essay it's going to be pretty obvious," she said.

Ms Johnson, currently studying for an MBA at Heriot Watt university, says that there is much original work in degree essays and that this content should be made available to other students - much in the way that libraries make books or other sources of information available.

Vigilance

"There will always be 'something for nothing merchants' who will try to cheat, but the vast majority will use these essays as a resource," she said.

University chiefs, although not wanting to comment on specific websites, warn students against believing that plagiarism can be an easy short cut to a good grade, claiming that cheats will be uncovered.

"Universities are always extremely vigilant in their assessment procedures, which usually involve unseen examinations as well as assessed papers," said a spokesperson for the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals.

"Anyone cheating in their preparation of assessed essays, for example, is likely to be found out as there will be a great discrepancy between the standard of their examination answers and essays."

And in an attempt to clamp down on the threat of plagiarism, universities have been using software designed to detect signs that students have been trying to pass off other people's work as their own.

Anonymous

But if students are drawn to www.zarr.com, what can they expect to find?

If a search is made under history, the website offers essays on subjects such as Marxism, Nazi Germany, Stalin and the Hittites.

The authors remain anonymous, but there are essays identified as coming from universities including Oxford, Newcastle and Birmingham.

However the range is far from comprehensive and the history section includes an essay entitled An Investigation into the Bed Type Requirement, from a student on the Hospitality Management (with Hotel Management) degree course at Thames Valley University.

And the site contains its own disclaimer in terms of anyone seeking to use the essays for dishonest purposes.

It says essays should be used as a "supplementary resource and not as an alternative to students actually doing the work themselves."

But the statement also accepts that the essays could be used "unethically", although it promises that it will not be promoted for such purposes.

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See also:

27 Oct 99 | Education
Catching the internet cheats
11 Jan 99 | Education
Software catches the exam cheats
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