Posted in Writing

Cheatin’ on a Cheater

 Mel Gibson Maverick

Interesting dilemma this afternoon…  One of the “article” assignments that came my way among my batch of usual freelancing odds’n’ends was an assignment that was clearly a college student’s term paper–complete with the professor’s grading rubric.  As a one-time college instructor myself, I have Zero compassion for the literary cheat, and I paused to consider whether to accept the assignment at all.

Of course, I know that if I don’t write it, it will get handed off to one of the other writers on the team anyway, and our Cheater will still get a paper delivered (for a steep price, I’m hoping)–and if that smacks of “justification,” well, I’ll just go ahead and say it: I need the money.  Besides…  If someone else were to write this paper, they might not do it with the express intention of sabotaging the cheater.  Which is precisely what I proceeded to do.

Let me be clear: I didn’t cheat them on what they paid for–far from it.  I went above and beyond!  Lyrical language, flowing narrative, extensive research, and a “Works Cited” page with more than triple the required number of references, all of them top-notch government sources.  The type of effort that a slacking student (an assumption I’m making about anyone who would buy a term paper) would be unlikely to put forth.  And presumably the professor will note the red flag I was waving while I wrote.  Hey, I watch Burn Notice.

“When you’re communicating in code, sometimes you just have to hope that whoever you’re talking to is smart enough to figure out what you’re saying. Use a code that’s too simple, and it will get broken. Use a code that’s too complex, and you’re just talking to yourself.” ~Jeffrey Donovan, as covert-ops specialist Michael Westen in “Burn Notice.”

copyright Marty Bucella, image from

I guess I’ll never know if I were talking to myself with this one or not–but here’s hoping I managed to cheat the cheater!

Today’s Synchronicity Side-Note…  When I was halfway through writing this post, another writing-assignment came in for me: “Using Cell Phone Spyware to Check a Cheating Spouse”…

Evidently it’s a “themed” evening…


I am... a writer, an explorer, a coffee-drinker, a recovering addict, a barefoot linguist, a book-dragon ("bookworm" doesn't cover it), a raconteur, a sailboat skipper, a research diver, a tattooed scholar, a pirate, a poet, a spiritual adventurer, a photographer, a few kinds-of-crazy, a joyful wife, a mom... a list-maker! :)

31 thoughts on “Cheatin’ on a Cheater

  1. Excellent solution, Kana! If the professor doesn’t see that flag waving, perhaps the student will get a poor grade for “flatulent writing.” And your Burn Notice quote cracked me up. I could hear Donovan’s voice as I read it.


  2. I’ve no idea how you find the time to do these assignments AND populate this blog with so many stories.
    I remember once I got asked to write a paper for somebody. I’ve never been so mad! I did my own degree all by myself and was pleased with my shoddy mark (I should have done more work in hindsight), my sister was half way through hers and sobbing every night from stress.
    And then somebody who should have known WAY better asked me to write a paper for them.

    Needless to say that’s a conversation that didn’t end well. -_-


    1. To your list of “I’ve no idea how you find the time to…” can we add “AND watch Burn Notice?”

      I became very cynical about academic integrity back when my kids were in middle school and I realized they were competing against other kids’ PARENTS who were doing the schoolwork because all they cared about were the grades, not the skill or knowledge building. Gah.


      1. Well, some of the topics I end up writing are NOT academically or intellectually challenging… So when I’m stuck with “top ten brands of toothpaste” or some such, I often stream shows from Netflix to keep my BRAIN entertained while I write drivel. ;)


  3. I am not so sure here. You have made a judgement here about the student without all the information – maybe his mother is in the last throes of cancer, or his best friend was killed by a drunk driver last weekend – this could be a one time thing for him. You have no idea with your other assignments if they are being used for nefarious purposes. The very nature of the way it works suggests that it could be for a product that is not safe, or uses child labor overseas, or is in fact a someone using it for purposes which would be strongly against your moral code. You made the judgement this time – and took money for doing it, while trying to screw with him.


    1. You make an excellent point–I don’t know anything about this student aside from the fact that s/he chose to cheat. Though I’ll still stand by my judgment about that particular decision–there are more appropriate ways to deal with a tragedy than the cheat–like going directly to the professor… (As a graduate student, I had to do exactly that when my daughter arrived three months early in the middle of a semester; I took an incomplete and made up the work in the summer when her life was out of danger. And as an instructor myself, I’ve had a number of students come to me with circumstances that warranted special arrangements…)

      And you make another excellent point about the REST of the work I write for people and send out into the world… I have no idea and no control over how it’s used. Kind of scary, really…


  4. So glad I don’t have to make that decision. The ethics would trouble me, but I would probably err on the same side you did, when push comes to shove. Good thing you’ve got that new computer to keep up with all this writing! I’m with Lleandra, I’m not sure how you produce so much! :-)


    1. I confess that my original “plan” actually included the intention of a block excerpt posted here–for the specific purpose of providing a further “flag” if the professor checked the paper with a Google search…
      But I decided that would be going TOO far–breaking the letter as well as the spirit of my own obligations–since I’m expected to provide original material that passes CopyScape…


  5. Leslie Hobson makes an good point in the comments above.

    None of us really has any idea what happens to anything we put into the public arena. (no matter what our ‘privacy’ settings are) We have to make judgments based on out own ethical codes, and the available information, (sometimes insufficient and sometimes way too much) but more importantly, our instincts/intuition. In other words, working with what we have. We make our decisions, accept the consequences, and move on.

    You present an ethical dilemma of rather large portions. What is our price, and how can we still honour our Selves, even though we acknowledge and accept that we have one?

    Me? I would’ve taken the assignment, because I had already entered into an agreement to do so (with the company who sends them to you ) and done the ‘too-good-to-be-true sabotage.

    I’ve faced the dilemma of how far would I go for money, and found my line in the sand that I’m at peace with. Something like this is nowhere near it.


  6. A truly appropriate way to handle that difficult ethical issue you were faced with. I think you handled it just right! If that professor does not pick up on the obviously “bought” nature of that paper, then that professor is pretty worthless, right? My question is, why would your agency accept such a job? Oooh, well–we won’t go there! And I got a kick of your getting that same evening the spyware to be used by a suspicious spouse! When it rains, it pours, right? Wonderful post again that brought more than a few chuckles into my day. Thank you.


    1. I guess I haven’t gotten that far… We haven’t had any television channels (not even the free ones) for a number of years, so any “television” we watch is streamed from Netflix–and at least a couple seasons old! ;)


  7. I was presented with the same situation myself a few days ago and turned it down. My attitude is that if you wanted to go to college, you should expect to do the work. I did my own work in college and grad school. I know someone else probably ended up doing this job, but I just could not morally do it. Having two young kids of my own, there are certain examples I need to set and this was definitely one of them. The saddest part of all is that these lazy kids are all going to be runninng the world one day. Makes my skin shiver a bit.


    1. And I applaud your choice–particularly since I wasn’t so stalwart as to make it myself.
      I was just thinking this afternoon of my ex-husband, whose brother did his Master’s thesis for him (I DID say no to that one), and who later “pooh-poohed” MY dissertation for being “artsy fartsy writing-stuff”… Hey, at least I WROTE mine, bozo!
      Well, I just hang onto the hope that the people running the world will be the ones who did their own work–because hopefully the lazy ones will end up colliding with real life and discovering they’re unprepared because they “outsourced” the learning-experiences that would have positioned them to lead… Kids like YOURS will be running the country instead! :)


  8. I hope the cheater gets busted. As a former teacher myself, why people take the time and energy to cheat when they could have just done the work escapes me.


  9. Oh geez, when I was in college I used to write papers for free because I liked to write. Now mind you, the papers I wrote were for friends who were not slackers and had done the work but lacked the ability to write a good paper. I’d be given a paper they’d written with an embarrassed request to put it together so it flowed. Most of the papers were for friends whose majors were more technical/science based so facts and figures were fascinating to them while the magic in words was not evident.

    I wonder how people who pay others to do their work for them will make it through life? It’s not an achievement if it can be purchased.


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