Sign up for our Headlines morning newsletter.

The most interesting things on the web, handpicked each day. Sign up for our Headlines morning newsletter.

Op-Ed

Downloading for the Greater Good

Fall semester is fast approaching, when students in our best universities will resume buying their essays off the internet and plagiarizing like crazy—and good for them! Why downloading term papers is an asset to higher education.

I’m a classical music host on Sirius Satellite Radio, and from time to time I do some work at WNYC-New York Public Radio as well. Recently a reporter at the station told me about a story she’s working on for the start of the school year, about how widespread—and unethical—it is for college students to download term papers and pass them off as their own. I’ve been thinking a lot about it, and though I agree that trying to pass off a downloaded paper is technically “plagiarism,” which is the same as “lying,” I also feel a more thorough examination of the issue reveals many ways that downloading papers serves the greater good. Students who cheat are missing the bigger picture; sure, it can help you get a better grade, but it can also make a lasting, positive impact on the world. And don’t all college kids want to improve the world?


Downloading Papers Is Good For The Environment

Writing a research paper from scratch involves creating a number of drafts. While some students involved in “the writing process” will make all their revisions on screen, others still practice the archaic ritual of printing out each draft to look it over and make edits on paper. Not only is this so 1990s, it also destroys the lives of thousands of trees.

Let’s do a thought experiment: There are approximately 14 million college students in the U.S. If 40 percent of them edit their papers on screen, 20 percent print out drafts, and the rest are either downloading papers or too busy drinking to hand them in at all, that’s 2.8 million students printing out each draft. Three versions of a five-page paper, eight papers a semester: That’s 336 million pieces of paper per semester. If these students decided to download their research papers, thus making it necessary to print each one only once, that would save 448 million pieces of paper a year. At approximately 90,000 pieces of paper produced per felled tree, that’s about 5,000 trees saved.

Moreover, it’s worth noting that the “term paper assistance” sites do almost 100 percent of their business online. Papers are delivered only over email, not by post. This saves hundreds of thousands of envelopes. Also, payment occurs through PayPal or by credit card. Even though checks are made of just a small amount of paper, “term paper assistance” sites prefer to conserve and use only pulp-free forms of payment.


Downloading Papers Keeps Professors Computer Savvy

Most tenured professors didn’t grow up with computers, so they’re not always that sharp when it comes to zeroes and ones. I used to work as an administrative assistant at a very reputable college. It is no exaggeration to say that many of the professors couldn’t handle making microwave popcorn, much less checking their email.

But since students started downloading papers, professors have been forced to catch up with technology. Skipping past the skills needed to operate a microwave, they now have to search the internet looking for proof that the papers are “plagiarized.” Professors have had to learn software such as the “Glatt Plagiarism Screening Program,” which blanks out every fifth word of a student’s paper and then tests how long it takes the student to fill them all back in. Also, many colleges maintain online anti-plagiarism databases that allow professors to type in any eyebrow-raising turn of phrase from a student’s paper to see if it was copied from another source.

This may sound like simple stuff to you and me, but keep in mind that about half of currently tenured professors were born before TV sets became common in American homes.


Downloading Papers Fuels The Economy

Though writing a paper requires buying a few supplies, paper and staples don’t cost much. That’s good in some respects, especially for college students strapped for cash, but it doesn’t do much for the economy.

A half-decent downloaded paper will run you around $30. Ready made papers come in topics ranging from abnormal psychology to Zhu Bajie, whoever that is. If you want a paper custom-written for you, that costs about $18 a page. When you take into account the many thousands of downloaded papers that students buy each year, it becomes clear that the exchange brings into the economy hundreds of millions of dollars that otherwise might be doing no good whatsoever sitting around in savings accounts.

And chew on this: Many of the most popular “term paper assistance” sites are based in the good ol’ U. S. of A. That’s right. OPPapers.com was founded by a student in New York. (Note the witty tribute to Naughty by Nature’s hit, “O.P.P.” Meaning “other people’s property”—meaning “cheating.”) Friendly Jim of FriendlyJim.com lives in Minnesota. A1essays.com has a California fax number. These sites are plainly good for our economy. Students: Don’t be lured into spending your dollars at the cleverly named CheatHouse.com, formerly “Evil House of Cheat.” It’s Danish.

Moreover, if the claims of many of these “term paper assistance” sites are truthful, they hire only people with PhDs. Even idealistic doctoral candidates know the job market in academia is tough. Landing a tenure-track position may not be as simple as writing a dissertation on, say, “Hegemonical Depictions of Female Dogs in Asian Watercolor of the 18th Century.” In fact, according to a survey of university history departments, in the 2003-04 school year there were approximately 15 percent more history doctorates granted than there were jobs available—and the gap is widening. “Term paper assistance” sites hire hundreds of these job-hungry academics, thus decreasing the unemployment rate among our nation’s most educated work force.


Downloading Papers Lowers The Incidence Of Depression Among Students

I hate to be gloomy, but there have been a lot of campus suicides in the past couple years. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among American college students. That means more college students die each year from suicide than AIDS, cancer, or drinking binges combined. About one in 13,000.

Sleep deprivation, an age-old trademark of the college experience, greatly increases the likelihood of becoming depressed. Downloading research papers eliminates hours of work each week. If the 10 percent of students who report considering suicide in an average year were to use those hours to catch up on sleep, and maybe start going to the gym and hitting happy hour, they probably wouldn’t be so down. In fact, they’d be physically fit and socially lubed, thus increasing the likelihood of getting the much-heralded “some.” “Some” releases endorphins, thus elevating one’s mood, thus making suicide less likely.

By saving time, raising GPAs, and facilitating endorphin release, downloading papers could literally save lives. Doctors would be wise to give out not only prescriptions for Zoloft, but also the URLs of “term paper assistance” sites.

In conclusion, looking outside the small-minded notion of “the honor code” reveals that downloading papers saves trees, facilitates professors’ life-long learning, fuels the economy, and saves lives. I’m sold.

Free downloads of this story are available at bogusexcusestoplagiarize.com.