David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Your Cheatin' Doc (a sequel of sorts)

April 14, 2015

The British publication The Telegraph published an article this week about a ghost-writing service for dissertations, ACAD WRITE (I think they screwed up the verb tense; shouldn't it be A Cad Writes?).  As usual, when I post about a topic subject as this, I have many different angles to take.  There are obvious questions:  what idiot is willing to ghost write boring dissertations and theses?  Does the CEO really believe that his company can wash their hands of accountability with the suggestion that "should a client ignore the prohibition, then we cannot be held responsible?"  Are we really to have sympathy for students who "have invested a lot of time in carrying out research on their papers but are unable to meet a particular deadline?"  Dang deadlines!

However, I will eschew all of those questions to focus on the specifics of this kind of service.  I am not sure I would have been elated or angry to have learned of such a service in the early 90s when I was working on my dissertation (missing a ton of deadlines, by the way!).

The service charges about 80 British Pounds a page, which is about $118 American Dollars a page.  For that cost, one better get some really good academic jargon.  In fact, I think that is one flaw with this system. They should charge by a combination of suitable academese: syllables-per-word; -icals and -isms; references to others, all of this done just to make sure the purchaser doesn't get the monkey clanging at the keys and producing an analysis of Shakespearen tragedies. 

Take these excruciating sentences from the introduction to my dissertation: "A fifth approach, difficult to categorize, perhaps could be best identified as 'telelogical.' By engaging the tenement as symbol, Robert Herrick's The Common Lot (1904) and Henry Blake Fuller's With The Procession (1895) do not examine in any detail the conditions of the tenement or the plight of the poor.  Instead the tenement is equated with the dearth of morals and ideals in post-industrial America. The public disgrace of urban housing lay not in the psychological or physiological deterioration of the inhabitants but in the aesthetic and moral deterioration of the owners."

The clearly enunciated listing of key points ("fifth approach") -- 25 Pounds each time.

Use of abstract academic term ("telelogical") -- 75 Pounds.  (To this day, I still don't know if I used "telelogical" correctly.  Eventually one simply does what one's dissertation committee demands, uh, suggests.)

References to other works - 45 Pounds each.  Later in my dissertation, when I would be citing secondary works, the cost doubles.  A contemporary scholar's "Bibliometrics" (citation analysis) is more important than some dusty old novel. (And reader, you owe me 90 Pounds for "Bibliometrics.")

Use of "aesthetic" -- flat 100 Pound rate every time.  That's akin to driving down the main toll road between two important end points.

Twenty 3- or more-syllable words, each costing 15 Pounds a piece.  Grand total, those three sentences cost me $590 Pounds.  Who am I to complain, though: weighty writing don't come cheap.

What concerns me more is the suggestion in the article that a 10,000 word dissertation will cost about 1800 Pounds, about $2650 American Dollars (based upon the current exchange rate).  A 10,000 word dissertation!  Just how easy has our educational system become?  My dissertation came in at about 50,000 words and I was embarrassed that it seemed a little thin.  Who is able to submit a dissertation that is barely 40 pages?  Longer dissertations, at least as historically produced, are likely to cost as much as the program at some less expensive universities across the world.

I am also a little perplexed by the notion in the article that an "empirical study" costs more than an average dissertation (this is how I infer the sentence in the article's seventh paragraph).  Is this one more way to make those of us in the Humanities feel more like second-class citizens? 

My last blog focused on cheating on standardized testing, a reflection of the challenges between the 12th and 13th holes on the Educational Golf Course (see my September 28, 2014, blog).  Today, I stand on the final hole of that golf course and still hear Johnny Rotten's voice in my ears: "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"