Please have a look at this question:

How do I imitate the simplicity of a typical student's writing?

The question is fairly straightforward, it's mostly there in the title. However, the question author clearly states that he works for an essay mill.

If this were an illegal activity, it would be closed immediately. However, ghostwriting essays so a student could get a grade they don't deserve is not illegal, simply unethical.

Should this site be supporting an activity that enables academic cheating?

Edit: I'm not asking if ghostwriting in general is on topic here, but specifically academic ghostwriting, which is a very different animal.

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    I had the exact same reaction to the question. I'm still mulling over the topic, with no clear conclusion. On the one hand, there's definitely a writing question here... on the other, it's very much in the vein of "how can I enable cheating more effectively." I'm trying to think of more questions that are ethically equivalent. – Standback Nov 6 '11 at 14:27
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    @Standback - Yeah, this one is difficult. Closing this because the OP was honest is counterproductive. However, if this site is supporting academic ghostwriting, it will quickly get a bad rep. I'm fully aware that ghostwriting in a commercial sense is a different animal, and this is a double-standard. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Nov 6 '11 at 16:32

This question does not at all pertain to ghostwriting. I believe it is more about cheating the system. Just because someone is able to bribe a cop to get out of a speeding ticket doesn't mean it should be acceptable. There are laws and standards that are established by society to improve the whole.

I would be willing to bet that each educational institution has specific policies and guidelines pertaining to this very topic indicating that any student involved in such activity would be expelled. I have two kids in high school, and I have actually signed a document that specifically addresses this very issue and requires both the student and the parent to acknowledge that this policy exists and that such activity will not be tolerated.

This site is supposed to be about helping people improve their writing skills. This question is NOT asking how to improve writing skills, it is asking how to improve cheating.

This question would be similar to someone going over to the Gardening SE site and asking how to improve their marijuana crop. Sure it's a plant, and sure it's a question that pertains to gardening, but it is a question about an activity that society in general would NOT recognize as legal or acceptable.

  • I'm asking for help on becoming a more diverse writer. How did you fail to see that? – Mr_Spock Nov 6 '11 at 16:02
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    Well, if you define "diversifying your writing" in very narrow terms, yes -- you aren't doing it for the art; you're doing it for pay. The real question you are asking is "how do I achieve the goal of Writing In The Style of X?" Why you want to write in the style of X is what's being debated, and it's what's giving people the willies. – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Nov 6 '11 at 16:08

I'm hesitant to close a question based on ethics considerations.

  • It's one thing to say I find a question objectionable; it's another thing to say a question is beyond the pall for the entire site and community. I think sticking to what's legal is a good easy line to draw.
  • I don't see any way to moderate for ethics save to open up a meta thread for every problematic question, and that doesn't sound like a great method to me.
  • I don't anticipate ethically-problematic questions popping up here as a regular feature to be dealt with, so I don't feel we need to establish site policy to deal with them... which effectively means that site policy is not to deal with them in any special way.
  • I do think individual community members will care about the ethical considerations of the questions; we'll see that in question votes and in the responses the question gets. I'm fine with letting regular community response doing the moderation here.

So in conclusion, I don't think we should close the question (unless StackExchange has a policy to the contrary, or this site wishes to develop one). However, I fully support people using their question votes, the comments, and meta to argue the ethics.

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    No policy yet. See also: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/25286/… – John Smithers Nov 6 '11 at 15:38
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    @JohnSmithers: Thanks for the link! Though, intriguingly, in our case (as opposed to the meta link) OP has made his intentions perfectly clear. – Standback Nov 6 '11 at 15:50
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    Yes, he did and I admire his honesty. If you suggest that he should lie in the future and wrap his questions around the truth, then I will revoke my upvote ;) – John Smithers Nov 6 '11 at 15:56
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    Yes, the question author is being upfront. He also insulted me in the comments to his question for daring to question him. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Nov 6 '11 at 16:26
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    I'm not asking whether or not we should close questions based on ethics in a general sense; I'm asking if academic ghostwriting is on-topic or no. I'll update my question to make this clearer. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Nov 6 '11 at 16:34
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    You are pretty thin-skinned if you consider that as an offense, @Neil. – John Smithers Nov 6 '11 at 16:34
  • I consider it rude. Believe me, I've seen worse on SE, and I'll get over it! :) – Goodbye Stack Exchange Nov 6 '11 at 16:39

I am really against the habit to make up rules for every issue. If it is illegal, close it. If it's not, leave it as it is.

Ethic decisions are clearly a consideration of every individual. Trust the users of this site, that they can make their own decision. If you don't like it, downvote it or leave it alone.

Honestly that is exactly what the community is doing right now. The question has vanished from the main page, because of its number of downvotes. So I wouldn't say, we support academic cheating.

  • If the question is not deemed off-topic, then there's no valid close reason. (It does relate to writing, is clearly written, and is answerable.) If the community decides in this meta thread that academic ghostwriting is just another form or writing and that we should allow it, then it'll stay open. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Nov 6 '11 at 16:52
  • What do you want to tell me, @Neil? I already know that. What I say is, leave it as it is, the community cares about it. – John Smithers Nov 6 '11 at 17:18

It's ghostwriting.

If a person ghostwrites a best-selling book for someone, is it just as unethical?

Added If a quantum physicist decides to go into ghostwriting as a science fiction writer, don't you think the question would arise then? I'm in a very similar situation, and I'd like help.

This forum should support this sort of work not because it undermines some laws in academia (facilitation of academic dishonesty, particularly), but because it is ONE particular form of what's normally considered perfectly fine: ghostwriting.

  • If this were about ghostwriting, the question of how to dumb down the language to sound less eloquent wouldn't really arise :P – Standback Nov 6 '11 at 14:28
  • @Standback It could certainly arise; you're implying an obvious false dichotomy. If a quantum physicist decides to go into ghostwriting as a science fiction writer, don't you think the question would arise then? I'm in a very similar situation, and I'd like help. – Mr_Spock Nov 6 '11 at 14:30
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    The example you give of the quantum physicist strikes me incomparable. Students are aiming to gain a grade and/or qualification, and passing off a ghost writer's work as their own to gain that qualification would likely be viewed as academic fraud unless declared by the student and allowed by the university. Someone ghost writing for someone else who wishes to sell a book is a completely different scenario in my mind. I completely agree that you, as a writer, or not engaged in anything illegal by providing the service, however. – Craig Sefton Nov 6 '11 at 15:41
  • @CraigSefton But the physicist is contributing to someone's socioeconomic growth in the same way, so how are they different? If life in a society is all about status (in scholarship or not), that makes my argument completely valid, ethically. How can you not see where I'm coming from? – Mr_Spock Nov 6 '11 at 15:59
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    How can I not see where you're coming from? Easy, because the two really are not the same. You may like to tell yourself that you're not doing anything ethically wrong, and that's fine, but don't try and pretend that universities and schools would view this as anything else other than academic fraud on behalf of the student. I mean, would you feel comfortable hiring a lawyer who used ghost writing to gain a law degree? Of course not. – Craig Sefton Nov 6 '11 at 16:16
  • @CraigSefton I wouldn't be comfortable trusting a publisher who distributes books that were ghostwritten, if I were to agree with you... Nor would I trust a President who has speech writers, nor engineers who outsource mathematicians for detailed mathematical constructs to back their projects. Do you see what I mean? – Mr_Spock Nov 6 '11 at 16:22
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    If the engineer used a ghost writer to gain his degree, he was engaged in academic fraud. Likewise, if the President ghost wrote to gain his academic degree, he was engaged in academic fraud. Ghost writing does have legitimate places in society, but "contract cheating" (which is the other term this is known by in the academic world) is not one of them. I really don't care that you consider it ethical, and you're entitled to do whatever you like, but don't pretend that this is not viewed as academic fraud. That's all I have to say on the subject. – Craig Sefton Nov 6 '11 at 16:38
  • @CraigSefton I have not pretended that it isn't academic fraud. I was completely honest, and I know what I'm facilitating. For you to sit there as a volunteer mediator, blatantly ignoring that I have not tried to circumvent the odious, trending fraud in academia amazes me. I've truly changed my mind about this forum. Here we are, obviously a set of intellectuals (in comparison to most of society, it's obvious), yet some of us can't bear to be anything but narrow-minded. THAT'S all I have to say on this subject. Thank you for your correspondence. – Mr_Spock Nov 6 '11 at 16:53

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