New book reveals everything you need to know about contract cheating by students
“Cheating is an epidemic in higher education. I should know. I spent a decade spreading the disease. In 2009, I was making over $60,000 a year doing homework for students. I was an academic ghostwriter, professional cheat, research mercenary with a bad case of spiritual exhaustion.
“My life was an endless assembly line of essays, exams, theses and even dissertations. I was fast. I was resourceful. I was prolific.
This is the opening of Dave Tomarit is The Complete Guide to Contract Cheating in Higher Education which is sure to soon be recognized as the definitive book on contractual cheating, the practice by which students hire others to write their academic assignments for them.
For nearly a decade, Tomar worked as a highly successful ghostwriter, hired by students to write their essays, term papers, capstone projects, master’s theses, and — yes — even their doctoral dissertations.
In 2010, Tomar denounced himself and, under the pseudonym of Ed Dante, admitted in an explosive, much quoted article in the Chronicle of higher education that he was a well-paid ghost writer, “an education outlaw” working at an online company producing the papers that had been requested by unfaithful students. In his heyday, Tomar was writing more than 20 different assignments a day.
These revelations earned him the title “Shadow Scholar”, a name the media latched onto with enthusiasm. Along with his newfound fame, Tomar was met with widespread skepticism, criticism, and hostility from college administrators and professors, many of whom simply refused to believe that their students had cheated or that they would be unable to detect the few who have done so.
Now, in his new book, Tomar exposes the entire contract cheating industry in a highly engaging, often perversely amusing account of online cheating-for-hire. It’s the outlaw who went straight. In fact, in recent years, Tomar has consulted with cheat detection companies like Turnitinacting something like the reformed card counter who is hired by casinos to warn them of how they are being harassed by professional gamblers.
Part confessional, part expository, part textbook, this book is a must read for anyone who wants to learn the ins and outs of ghostwriting, the scale of the industry, why students cheat , which the cheat reveals. on the shortcomings of higher education and how the problem should be understood and better addressed.
It’s an interesting progression for Tomar, who admits that when he was working as a ghostwriter, he expressed his rebellion and hostility towards his own negative and unfulfilling experiences in college. “For much of my career as a ghostwriter, I had a personal ax to grind against higher education, and I used that ax to sharpen my pen.”
“I never felt guilty back then,” he told me in a recent phone interview. “I never hid what I did for a living, and people were generally intrigued rather than repelled when they learned I was a ghostwriter. As a means of paying off my large student loans, fraudulent colleges seemed acceptable to me. at the time.
But over the years, Tomar said his attitudes began to change, starting with his self-exit in the The Chronicle. “I realized that I expected more of myself. There was a void in what I was doing, and I decided that I couldn’t keep doing it indefinitely, even though the pay was good and I learned a lot of interesting information along the way.
Stunned by the widespread attention and extreme reactions, the the Chronicle provoked article, Tomar, who is currently the editor of Academic influence, ultimately decided to write his new book as a reference guide for educators, offering “everything I know” about contract cheating. He says he wants him to foster an understanding of cheating from a practical and constructive perspective so that it can be successfully confronted and ultimately reduced.
Tomar believes the main reason students choose to cheat is a sense of “academic hopelessness,” a feeling that they are in over their heads, ill-prepared to successfully complete the academic tasks assigned to them.
Among the characteristics he finds most often in his clientele, Tomar points to a poor command of the English language, an insufficient understanding of the subject, the feeling of being overloaded with work, mental health problems, academic indifference , procrastination, laziness and parenting, social behaviors or internal pressure to succeed.
These individual problems are compounded by higher education practices such as the failure of colleges to teach students to write effectively, boring and repetitive written assignments, a lack of sufficient support and services for struggling students, evaluators overworked, disengaged faculty, and the skyrocketing cost of higher education that only raises the stakes for students who feel they must pass their course – whether through honest study or illicit schemes.
Tomar believes that solving the epidemic of cheating in higher education requires viewing it less as an ethical failing and more as an educational issue, an illicit transaction driven by many interrelated factors.
“Addressing the impact of contract fraud services requires that we view these services less as ethical transgressors and more as economic actors. Understanding why these services succeed and why they pose a threat to higher education forces us to think honestly about the connection between structural failures, soaring costs, and student attitudes to the academy.
Tomar offers a number of suggestions for preventing contract fraud, organized under what he calls the 4 Ds: Design, Deterrence, Detection, Diagnosis. Although it suggests several techniques under each heading, its overall goal is always to reduce student cheating by building on good educational practices aimed at helping students develop the academic skills they need and which many know ‘they miss.
By way of examples, he recommends a more advanced teaching of composition in middle school and high school; more classroom writing in college; greater use of a multi-project writing process in courses; stronger and more caring relationships between students and instructors; more personalized course content; expanded use of ungraded assignments; and strengthened support services for students, especially for those with mental health issues or language barriers.
Grounded in a genuine concern for the pressures students face, a candid acknowledgment of higher education’s contribution to the problem, and a thoughtful perspective on college education, this eye-opening book grabs your attention and never lets go.
It’s a great read for anyone who cares about the problem of cheating. But it’s essential reading for those who might still be inclined to deny just how widespread and serious college cheating has become.