Bogus college essays graded F

Jay Matthews:

Cheating is so widespread these days. Students take stuff off the Internet, uncredited, with little remorse. What is there to stop them?
Maybe we have missed something. Maybe dishonest shortcuts are not as irresistible as they seem. Consider, for instance, a remarkable column by Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.
His examination of cheating in college appeared in the Los Angeles Times under the headline “What money can’t buy.” He credits his lab manager, Aline Grunelson, with helping arrange a sting of the term paper industry. The piece’s contrarian conclusion is both troubling and heartening, a neat trick.
Ariely designed an experiment to test his worries about essay mills. They provide papers to order for high school and college students. The companies say they are only supplying reference material — wink, wink — but everyone knows what is going on. Ariely ordered an essay from four companies. He told them he wanted 12 pages for a college-level social psychology class using 15 sources, conforming to American Psychological Association style guidelines.