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Why Did You Do It? The Psychology of Contract Cheating

How Essay Mills Normalize Contract Cheating

Contract cheating is an extreme behavior that students undertake at great risk. So why do they do it? Let's take a look at how essay mills normalize contract cheating.

Christine Lee
Christine Lee
Content Manager

Contract cheating is any work someone does for a student (whether paid or unpaid or as a trade for services) that they then represent as their own. It can be:

Contract cheating is a form of academic misconduct, even if it isn’t an act of plagiarism. It is an extreme behavior that students undertake at great risk. So what is going through students’ heads when they engage in contract cheating?

That’s an excellent question. You know who has the answer? Essays mills.

In a brief ten minute search of Essay Mills’ websites, we observed messaging that was either nurturing or empathetic:

  • “Take a Break From Writing Essays”
  • “Essay Writing Made Easy: Do Not Stress Yourself with Academic Writing Pressures When We Can Deliver the Best for You”
  • “The Professional Essay Writing Service for Students Who Can’t Even”
  • “Taking Care of You Every Step of the Way”
  • “Relax. Your Wish is Our Command.”

Or, it reassured students that purchasing a paper was normal, not deviant, behavior:

  • “100% Plagiarism-Free Essays”
  • “Providing Students with Original Papers Since 1997”
  • “Key to Your Academic Success”
  • “Satisfied, Returning Customers”
  • “Today, a Lot of Students Yearn to Connect with Cheap Custom Essay Writing Service [sic]”

These messages contain words that a stressed student under deadline might be thirsty to hear. Who isn’t receptive to the words “care” or “relax” or “easy” while under pressure? These are nods of reassurance. These are empathetic messages that essay mills send out to students. In parallel, essay mills also influence students into thinking contract cheating is normal and prevalent, which they enforce with messages like “plagiarism-free” and “returning customers,” as well as testimonials from said customers.

Want to address contract cheating at your institution? Learn more about Turnitin Originality.