I am a hack writer. So far this school term I’ve seen three job requests that I know for sure come from students.
There’s nothing unethical about students working with hack writers, especially foreign exchange students who aren’t seeking degrees in English and don’t want to be unfairly penalized for language issues, student teachers who want to test curriculum materials on reasonably well educated adults who majored in a different field of study, or even students who aren’t interested in the subject of a required course and can’t think of good ideas for projects or papers. There are, however, ethical and unethical ways to do this.
Students should do their own work. I can help you organize your ideas, polish your grammar, find appropriate references. I cannot go to classes for you, read your textbook, or work on a project with your classmates. And if I write your paper for you, I’m guaranteeing you a lower grade than you could probably get all by yourself.
Your teacher is looking for evidence that you remember what you have been paying the teacher to teach you. If you were able to use the same paper on which I or someone else got full marks at a big-name school, your teacher would probably knock at least one letter grade off your score, because, even if the paper were recent enough to look good to an unsuspecting teacher, it would not reflect your work in his or her class.
Hiring a hack writer to write a professional quality article that happens to meet the requirements for your term paper is probably at least as old a college tradition as fighting over girls (or guys) who don’t even care who wins the fight…and using that article as the term paper is almost as stupid and self-destructive.
You can certainly hire a hack writer to write one or more publishable articles on your topic. Hack writers love that kind of job. We get a free refresher course in a subject we might have enjoyed studying, too, ten or twenty or fifty years ago, even if nobody’s been paying us to keep up with that field. You get ideas about possible topics to focus on, ways to organize your outline, and books and web sites to quote. However, if your paper does not refer to things you did in class, you’re cheating yourself out of a grade.
An experience I had at Berea may be instructive. Returning to college after two years at a different college and six years in the workforce, I had to go back and sit through a mandatory general studies course with a lot of seventeen-year-olds whose high schools weren’t up to the same standard as mine. One of the topics for a writing project was particularly uninspiring. Around 9 p.m. on the night before the deadline, I finally thought of something that seemed worth writing about, that at least came from the right historical period. It was an A+ paper all right. It also began with different material than the class had studied, made minimal reference to the material the class had studied, and cited none of the teacher’s ideas. Not only did I have to argue the grade up from a C to a B, I had to make the case to the dean. “I have no idea where she got this, but it’s obviously not from my class!” the teacher griped.
I was able to show that the work was my own, but that teacher still hated me. Because he was a sexist jerk who didn’t want to give an A to a woman? He may have been that…but what I’d written was also a big fat ugly snub to him as a teacher. Granted, he’d wasted a lot of my time explaining to seventeen-year-olds who’d just come out of inferior high schools what my class had done in grade eight. Granted, I was more interested in exploring my own ideas as they had developed out of what I’d done in grade eight. Granted, my eighth grade teacher was a better teacher and probably a better man than that professor at Berea. But did my paper really have to rub those things in? Students can be arrogant, bigoted, overbearing bores, too. If you write a term paper that does not refer to your work in class, you are being one.
If your talents are for things that pay better than writing, and you want a professional writer to help you compensate for that fact, go ahead and hire one. But don’t cheat yourself.
If your school library does not have a collection of other students’ papers, or collects only dissertations and theses, and you need ideas, go ahead and hire me or some other English major–preferably two or three of us–to write sample papers on your topic. That is legal as long as you’re doing it as part of your research. You can use the same properly credited quotes, or read the same sources we’ve used and pick your own quotes. You can even use direct quotes from our papers; the correct form, depending on the style guide your teacher prefers, would be something like “Doe, John. ‘Medical Terminology in the Historical Plays of Shakespeare.’ Unpublished paper, 2015.” Just be sure that you’re working our ideas in with ideas of your own that reflect your class work.
If you want a professional writer to make sure your English is correct, you can pay for that too. Any decent hack writing site, including the one for which I work, will give you a discount if you state up front that you want revisions or corrections instead of independent writing jobs. Do your own research work, be prepared to exchange a few e-mails if your meaning is not clear, and you can legitimately take credit for writing your paper the way you would have written it if English had been your native language.
But I’ve seen some truly ridiculous proposals for writing jobs. One lazy student wanted somebody to write for him an assignment that was, basically, “Write about this week’s discussion in your project group.” How on Earth is any professional writer, anywhere, going to know what you discussed with your project group? There’s nothing wrong with asking me or some other professional writer to edit a rough draft that looks like “As the Project have discuss, One. J. Doe that the Trip for Smithsonian-Museums take have propose…”, but you have to deal with the shyness or laziness or whatever, write that rough draft, and then get help to rewrite it in standard English.
As a bonus, if you do have to write your paper in your native language and use a dictionary or translation software to obtain a very rough translation, a good writing site just might employ someone who recognizes the influence of your native language and can do a good translation. Just give us the chance.
Professional writers want to help customers, not hurt them. By doing their share of their work, students can make it possible for us to help rather than harm their grades.
(To sign off, for Google + purposes, here’s our Morguefile writing cat.)