Profiling the international academic ghost writers who are providing low-cost essays and assignments for the contract cheating industry

Thomas Lancaster, (2018) “Profiling the international academic ghost writers who are providing low-cost essays and assignments for the contract cheating industry”, Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society,



Students have direct access to academic ghost writers who are able to provide for their assessment needs without the student needing to do any of the work. These ghost writers are helping to fuel the international industry of contract cheating, raising ethical dilemmas, but not much is known about the writers, their business or how they operate. This paper aims to explore how the ghost writers market their services and operate, based on observable information.


This paper reviews data from providers actively offering contract cheating services available to the public on, a low-cost micro outsourcing site. The search term write essay is used to identify providers, finding 103 Gigs from 96 unique providers. Visible information, such as provider marketing, advertised services, pricing information and customer reviews, is analysed.


The results demonstrate that bespoke essays are readily available to students at a low cost. The majority of providers operate from Kenya. Revenue calculations indicate a price point of US$31.73 per 1,000 words, below the cost of traditional essay mills, but show that these 96 providers have generated around US$270,000 of essay writing business between them.


This study affords a look into a complex and established industry whose inner workings are normally kept private and for which little published information currently exists. The research adds to what is known about the extent, location and operation of the contract cheating industry.

Contract Cheating Hits 15% – Will Be 20% By 2028?

As the latest study from Phil Newton shows, 15% of current students have paid a third party to complete their work for them.

Looking at survey results from over 50,000 students, dating back to 1978, Phil has shown a sharp and significant increase in the percentage of students who are contract cheating.

At the current rate of increase, the figure is rising by around 5% every 10 years. If nothing changes and the linear rate of increase continues, we could expect to see 20% of students contract cheating by 2028 (or 25% by 2038).

Speaking in Times Higher Education, Phil said:

To tackle the problem, we are going to have to have more conversations with staff and students about academic integrity and how to promote it and, clearly, we need legislation. As countries like [the Republic of] Ireland and the US legislate against it, the UK risks becoming the country where essay mills find it easy to do business.

It certainly is time to act. A whole range of measures are necessary, not just legislation, but also looking at the way students are taught and assessed to prepare them for the employment available to them today.