Essay mills & academic integrity

Many of you are perhaps panicking over how unprepared you feel over your assessments and exams. However, be aware of the large and growing market of companies and individuals looking to exploit this situation that could affect your academic integrity.

Exams and assessments are well underway and many of you are perhaps panicking over how unprepared you feel over your assessments – this is completely normal. It's understandable, particularly when you’re under pressure to meet a deadline, to look around for help with your work. Unfortunately, this means that there is a large and growing market of companies and individuals looking to exploit this situation.  

We are aware that many of you may have seen or been contacted by ‘Essay Mills’ or groups and individuals offering assistance with your assignments, through group chats, social media or in person. These offers may be presented as easy option to help with an assessment, in return for money. Typically, these organisations offer to provide help with your assignments but in effect they are often offering to provide answers to questions or even whole assignments, which is known as ‘contract cheating. ’ As worried as you might be about whether you can complete or be successful in your assessments, resorting to this and other forms of academic misconduct can be really damaging for your studies and can put you in even greater stress and anxiety. 

If you receive an offer such as these or you are approached by a group or individual, it is important that you do not use it. Instead, use Queen Mary sources of support, or those endorsed by Queen Mary. 

We know how stressful this time can be, but we want to make sure that you never find yourself in a situation where your degree or grades are at risk. We have detailed some of the other ways you can access support, and it is never worth the risk to use these services. If you are concerned, or if you see someone advertising these services, you can let us know at su-representation@qmul.ac.uk

 

What to look out for: 

If you search for ‘university essay help’ the majority of top results should be avoided. Many are commercial organisations offering to do your work for you, sometimes known as ‘contract cheating’. Using such services is against our regulations and poses as risk to your chances of graduating. A lot of the top results are .com or .co.uk sites and, while there are some legitimate commercial providers supporting education, it is important to be careful about such sites. In particular, some sites offer some acceptable forms of support whilst pushing you towards activities that don’t meet Queen Mary’s standards of academic integrity. These unacceptable activities including sharing assignments or having answers or even whole essays provided by ‘experts’.  

There are lots of horror stories about students being blackmailed by providers, threatening to tell the student’s university that they’d been using the service. At other times it’s simply that students receive poor quality work from these sites without any way to get their money back because the sites are not regulated. The seriousness of this issue is illustrated by the fact that in April 2022 essay mills were made illegal in England and Wales, following similar bans in other countries

 

What should you do instead: 

If you search for ‘essay help QMUL’ you will see a list of appropriate sources of support from across Queen Mary, including 

Trust in your own abilities and make sure you’re clued up on what is and isn’t considered academic misconduct. Make sure that you check your Student Handbook on QMPlus, which should detail what is considered academic misconduct and how you can avoid committing an offence.  

Make sure that you access and use official and trusted sources of assessment support via the University, such as the Smarthinking Online Tutoring tool (Available 24/7), and other support available via the Academic Skills Service. 

 If you are worried about your exams and assessments, check out the ReviseWell workshops, which are available throughout the assessment period. 

To help you understand how to demonstrate academic integrity and avoid misconduct, Queen Mary has also recently made available an Academic Integrity course to help you to identify issues around academic integrity, plagiarism, collusion and other forms of misconduct. This is based in QMPlus and consists of a course that you can work through and get a certificate of completion if you complete the quizzes. 

Finally, the Students’ Union Academic Advice service can support you with a range of issues, including: Applications for extenuating circumstances; allegations of plagiarism or an examination offence; allegations of breach of the Code of Student Discipline and more. You can come and speak to us at the Students’ Union if you have any concerns or questions and would like further information. 

Muneer Hussain, VP Welfare 

 

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