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Online legal 'assistance' users could be guilty of plagiarism; lecturers on alert
Law students are being targeted by an organisation that offers to write essays and dissertations in return for a fee, academics have been warned. The Association of Law Teachers is on red alert after an academic reported that www.yourlawanswers.co.uk had been sending promotional mail shots to university law societies.
With 1,500-word essays written by legally qualifed staff costing upwards of £175 and revision guides starting at £5, yourlawanswers is one of a growing number of sites that offer students "assistance" with their coursework.
Although the site claims that students are made aware of legal and ethical issues from the outset, academics are concerned that some students may be encouraged to buy their way through university.
Alison Bone, head of the law group at Brighton University, said students who paid for essays and then tried to pass them off as their own would be guilty of plagiarism and could jeopardise their future careers. "To be honest, the kind of assignments we set are not even the type covered by this site," she said. "It's fairly basic stuff and the costs are so prohibitive. It would cost around £150 if you wanted to buy an essay written from scratch or £450 for a dissertation, so you would have to be desperate."
A yourlawanswers spokes-person said: "We find any suggestion that we encourage students to cheat defamatory since every client acknowledges our policy about plagiarism when contacting us and are fully aware that they would be in breach of copyright law in reproducing our work as their own. Certainly we do rely on the integrity of law students, but not more than lecturers do.
"We offer model answers for revision and study aids which students can find in publications such as the Cavendish Q&A series. Students are therefore fully aware of the implications of submitting the work as their own, just as they would be aware if they copied a textbook or the Q&A series."
Joint Information Systems Committee spokesman Philip Pothen said lecturers were being encouraged to set more creative essay questions, and universities have access to plagiarism-detecting software.