PETALING JAYA: Research and writing are big challenges for any Master’s or PhD student, but there is a shortcut for those willing to pay.
There are many services available online, which offer to proofread and even provide content for Master’s and PhD theses or dissertations.
It takes mere minutes to secure their services, as long as you are willing to pay up to US$3,500 (RM14,350) to have your Master’s thesis written for you by writers who are experts in your field of study.
Some providers offer an entirely legal and ethical proofreading service in order to brush up on the language in the student’s work.
Unscrupulous ones however go a step beyond by offering students content or primary data to include in their thesis or dissertation, which is tantamount to cheating.
“Proofreading services are normal but anything that goes beyond that, for example offering to provide data, is unethical and could be a criminal offence,” said lawyer Datuk Baljit Singh Sidhu.
He said students who submit theses or dissertations containing data provided by such service providers could be charged under the Penal Code for cheating.
A search online revealed many companies and individuals offering to proofread student assignments, theses and dissertations.
A customer agent with one proofreading company, when asked whether his firm can help write a Master’s thesis, asked for the field of study.
The agent for the company then said that he could offer primary data, secondary data and data analysis.
Primary data is data collected by a researcher from first-hand sources using methods like surveys, interviews or experiments.
Secondary data is information that is already available such as in journals or archives.
The agent said that while his firm cannot collect primary data from interviews with people, it can provide custom data sets generated by a questionnaire submitted by the customer.
Prices vary according to the length of the thesis and time needed for completion.
The agent said the price to write a 200-page Master’s thesis in 60 days is US$3,386.00 (RM13,882).
The price to merely proofread a 200-page paper is US$1,706.60 (RM6,997), the agent said.
The company does not specify any physical address for its business but lists a US toll-free telephone line.
On its website, the companies claim that it employs professional academic writers from various backgrounds.
A second company which offers proofreading services offers an assurance that its finished product will pass plagiarism tests.
The company’s website said its editors use the latest tools for this purpose.
A third company offering proofreading services meanwhile charges US$122 (RM500.20) to copy edit 2,000 words in six days.
A plagiarism check will cost an extra US$100 (RM410) and for an additional US$40 (RM164), the customer can ask the company to make further edits to the document.
Lawyer Bryan Ng Yih Miin said university students would be subject to a prohibition clause against plagiarism that is either included in the student handbook or contract between the student and university.
“The contract may have a clause saying that the university is entitled to disciplinary action in the event of contravention with the student handbook.
“That is where the university may then take legal action,” said Ng.
He said postgraduate students who receive a research grant would also be subject to terms in the grant contract which forbids plagiarism.