Multilingual Essay Mills: Understanding Contract Cheating among Second Language Learners – Workshop

U of C logo - 2015As many of you know, I’ve been developing a research program on academic integrity over the past few years. Last year I began collaborating with my friend and colleague, Dr. Roswita Dressler, on a project that brings together our combined expertise in academic integrity and language learning.

It started when I noticed that almost all of the research that I’d seen about contract cheating was focused almost exclusively on services provided in English. That led us to ask ourselves what the market was students of second languages. We undertook a rapid review to help us get a general sense of the landscape. We wrote up the results and they have been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. I’ll post about it when the publication comes out later this year.

We are also doing a workshop at the University of Calgary’s Language Research Centre  to help teachers of second languages build their understanding of what the contract cheating industry is and why they need to pay attention.

Workshop description

Contract Cheating_Poster - LRC WorkshopContract cheating happens when students have a third party complete academic work on their behalf. The term was coined by UK researchers Clarke and Lancaster (2006). It includes, but it not limited to essay mills and homework completion services. Suppliers of this form of “black market” academic work exist mainly online. Students can simply upload a digital copy of their assignment instructions to a website, insert a delivery date and pay for the work by credit card. Contract cheating is big business. Owings and Nelson (2014) found the essay mill industry in the United States alone to be valued at a minimum $100 million USD. Estimates show that over 71,000 post-secondary students in Canada buy academic work online (Eaton, 2018). There is growing evidence to suggest that contract cheating is not limited to academic work completed in English, but also in a variety of world languages.

In this workshop, you will learn more about what contract cheating is, how it happens, and how second language learners can order homework tasks, essays and even theses from online providers, customized to the exact instructions of an assignment. We will discuss strategies for prevention and detection, along with an examination of what to do if you suspect a case of contract cheating among your students.

Date and time: Friday, February 15, 3:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Location: Craigie Hall, 4th floor, Room D-420

This workshop is open to the public and is free to attend.


Clarke, R., & Lancaster, T. (2006). Eliminating the successor to plagiarism: Identifying the usage of contract cheating sites. Paper presented at the Second International Plagiarism Conference, Gateshead, United Kingdom.

Eaton, S. E. (2018). Contract cheating: A Canadian perspective.  Retrieved from

Owings, S., & Nelson, J. (2014). The essay industry. Mountain Plains Journal of Business and Economics, 15, 1-21.


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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.


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