Reference Work Entry

Handbook of Academic Integrity

pp 249-271


Custom Essay Writers, Freelancers, and Other Paid Third Parties

  • Philip M. NewtonAffiliated withCollege of Medicine, Swansea University Email author 
  • , Christopher LangAffiliated withOffice of Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances, University of Toronto


Almost any sort of higher education assignment can now be purchased from a third party, from traditional essays all the way through to paying someone else to sit an exam. The use of custom essay-writing companies, freelancers, exam stand-ins, and other paid third parties represents a potentially significant problem for the provision of education around the world. This chapter provides a summary of this fast-evolving issue in education. We focus on written assignments, which are cheap and easy to access. Prewritten assignments are available instantly, while bespoke custom-written assignments can be purchased with a few hours’ notice. The extent of their use is difficult to ascertain, but the limited evidence available indicates that it is widespread. The detection of their use is, at best, difficult and time-consuming. Preventative and deterrent strategies may be more effective. One author (PN) proposes preventative strategies based upon assessment design. The other (CL) proposes deterrent strategies based upon a legal approach. There is a legislative basis for the use of legal approaches to prevent misuse of paid services in higher education, and a summary of existing legislation is given, alongside examples of cases where it has been used.