I've been asked to write a paper for someone else at my school and it has made me question whether I'd be doing a horrible thing by agreeing. I have done it and accepted pay before now. My papers are generally relatively good. A sizeable portion of my income in high school came from papers I had written for others.

I've written fewer things for people in college. My clientele has, to this point, consisted of old friends and friends of friends from the nearby community colleges and stuff. These essays take more than the fifty minutes to churn out than high school ones did, but they also feel more rewarding because I usually have to research and learn a bit before asking for a bit of a higher payment than I charged in high school. This whole thing didn't really feel morally unwholesome until a person at my college asked me to write an essay for her the other day.

We have an honor code that I thought worked well. While I wouldn't be breaking a rule by giving someone my intellectual property, the idea that they'd be signing the same agreement I always do about adhering to the school's policies on a piece written by me really freaks me out! Luckily it's nothing that would be published in any way, but it still opened me to what I guess is a common enough ethical dilemma. Do I sell out or do I pay attention to the "right" thing to do?

I have no scruples making people from other places pay. I'd still write a paper for a high schooler at the drop of their pretty penny. Doing it for someone here just feels perverse. I'm also gunning for a job as writing tutor --a flawed position in a crumbling part of the institution in which I'm still super interested. Right now it seems as though I'm teetering between becoming either the helper of or the worker for others.

Personal values aside it would probably be super awkward tutoring some people and doing the work for others, particularly if one of the professors who has recommended me for the tutor position were to discover that I had written papers for students taking their class. I imagine I'd be fired.

Still, writing papers pays well enough. This person has essentially agreed to pay by the page at a rate based on the grade the paper earns. Right now I'm expecting at least $100 for five or six hours of work, which is significantly more than any job I can get working for the school. She also indicated that she'd be interested in pursuing my services further should the first paper prove satisfactory. I could be making a decent bit of coin by doing something I actually enjoy while learning and developing is I wouldn't necessarily entertain under certain circumstances.

Do the many ethical implications necessarily outweigh the high potential monetary gains? Should it matter to me when I'm technically doing nothing wrong (apart from subverting some classic pedagogic practices and participating in small-scale soul sale among other issues)? Isn't this basically what professional speech writers do? Assuming I stop, where should I draw the line (i.e. should I stop writing for others entirely, or what)?

Can you think of any other comments, questions, or concerns for me to address?

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    Let me just point out that "it has been a long night; I'm too lazy to search and interpret other people's somewhat similar situations" is never the right attitude if you expect others to spend their time answering your questions. Mar 10, 2017 at 15:34
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    I am wondering. If you have no compunction, then you'd just go and do what aids your wallet and try not to be caught. I'd have an opinion on that, but this is just mine, and SE is not a court and I am not a judge. But you seem to be bothered by it. So, clearly, you feel that it is wrong to do so. On the other hand, you talk about "subverting classic pedagogy", as if it is a program of subversion you run, almost robin-hooding what you do. To me it feels that you haven't decided what category you see yourself in. Cont'd Mar 10, 2017 at 15:51
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    However: as long as there is assessment, you deprive honest students from their well earned kudos (i.e. grade) for their honest work and give dishonest students the opportunity to buy themselves kudos for money. Since academic achievements are not - unlike money - supposed to be freely exchangeable, but are supposed to be tied to personas, you are cheating at least the university, the honest students and the employers of both types of students (and possibly others). You seem to see the problem or you wouldn't be here. So, what do you want to really know? Mar 10, 2017 at 15:55
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    Are you paying taxes on that money?
    – Daniel
    Mar 10, 2017 at 21:43
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    Please spend less time defending yourself and more time researching and writing a properly posed question. // How exactly would you report this income on your tax return? Mar 11, 2017 at 0:32

3 Answers 3


You are aiding others in breaking the rules of their college. Indeed, my old university, Texas A&M, had the Aggie Honor Code that says:

An Aggie does not lie, cheat or steal or tolerate those who do.

Note the second part. While it may not be illegal from the perspective of the law, you are helping others lie and cheat. Don't do it, you're going to regret it in hindsight as you go through life and gain more of an appreciation why academic dishonesty is a problem.

But see it from a positive perspective: You are good at writing. There are businesses that are looking for people like you. For example, there are companies that specialize in editing other people's works -- e.g., editing scientific papers for people who are either not good writers, or whose first language is not English. There is a market for your skill set, and one where you can actually make a living doing the ethically right thing. Most universities also have writing centers that keep a list of people who are interested in helping foreign students edit their theses and similar things. All of these will be rewarding jobs where you learn something and can help others without moral dilemmas.

  • I should note that there is a level of specialization required to work with non-native speakers (of any language). There are quite a few more complications, and it's not just about editing their content, but rather providing iterations on their work where editing for grammar, spelling, etc. is the lowest-order concern. If wanting to edit professionally, you must know your audience. Mar 12, 2017 at 1:14
  • Sure, no doubt. All I meant is to point out that if you're good at writing, there are directions you can take this in to make a living. Mar 13, 2017 at 2:18

The answer is no. Don't do it. The other person is committing plagiarism and you would be at fault as well, even though it is your work, because you essentially helped them plagiarize. Everything you asked points to you feeling guilty, so go with your gut. This could get very messy and you could be expelled. Where to draw the line? Don't do other people's homework. Period.

Not that I needed to find references to your question, but here's an article.

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    Yeah, I'm probably just going to stop altogether. It just doesn't feel right anymore.
    – Pi_Arc
    Mar 11, 2017 at 0:29

I'd still write a paper for a high schooler at the drop of their pretty penny.

And yet, those high schoolers are the ones you're damaging the most.

This is what I tell some of my younger relatives. For every homework that you do not do now, that same kind of work will become ten times harder once you're in college.

Isn't this basically what professional speech writers do?

Professional speech writers can say what they do and who they've worked for on their resume. Will you be able to do the same?

Also, by getting in the habit of letting others take the credit for your work, you're actually devaluing yourself.

Assuming I stop, where should I draw the line (i.e. should I stop writing for others entirely, or what)?

You already know where that line should be drawn. Writing for others teaches them absolutely nothing.

The next time you speak with this person (or someone else who wants your services), tell them that you won't write the essay for them, but that you'll be glad to lock yourself in a room with them for five hours to make sure they write their essay.

And then, you set your ground rules and ask them for the full cash payment in advance.

Your ground rules can vary, but I would personally include: Cell phones turned off. No wifi (unless research is required). This is a one-on-one session. They should sit next to you so you see what they're writing. No distraction (except for restroom breaks), unless they want you to walk out of that room and keep the remaining balance of the payment. The same goes if they're late or miss an appointment, you keep the money if that happens. And they should come to you at least three days before an essay is due otherwise your hourly rate is double.

The idea is that they wouldn't just be hiring a tutor, they would be hiring a task master. And even though, they may not be able to finish their essay in 5 hours, the work they accomplish in that time may motivate them enough to actually finish the work on their own.

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