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bananafish's avatar

Is it ethical to write someone's thesis for them?

Asked by bananafish (1114points) April 8th, 2009

This is for a grad student completing her Masters in Psychology. She’s written the first chapter containing the literary research, and now wants to hire me to write the rest – which includes (apparently) doing some research and conducting interviews for her, along with writing the thesis (and the conclusions of the interviews) myself.

I’m looking for answers from people who’ve been through this process of writing a Master’s thesis. Is this ethical? Or is it cheating?

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34 Answers

Qingu's avatar


Why would you think it’s not cheating?

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

It’s more disturbing that you would even have to ask this.

MacBean's avatar

I’d also be interested to hear what kind of twisted and fuzzy logic it would take to consider this anything but cheating.

Les's avatar

As another grad student, I officially despise your grad student “friend”.

The answer is, no. It is not in any way ethical. Some of us actually go insane writing our theses. The work involved, and the process of writing and experimentation are the reasons someone gets a Masters degree. To think that this person would forego that process and still get a degree makes me want to scream.

Now I’m going to go back to slaving away at my own thesis, thank you very much.

EmpressPixie's avatar

Your thesis is your crowning achievement as a masters student. The research you do for it must be your own and really good. I’m almost more interested in who would trust someone else to do that for them?

But the answer is, of course, it’s not ethical at all. Hiring you as an adviser to help her edit the paper is perfectly fine. But writing it for her? Not okay. Not okay at all.

janbb's avatar

You have to ask?

bananafish's avatar

Ok, good. This is the type of feedback I’ve needed. I only have a Bachelor’s degree, and so never have been through the formal thesis process.

When this woman approached me (not a friend), at first it seemed more on the up-and-up: I figured it was more a matter of transcribing her notes and research into a paper. That I’d be more okay with. I believe there are also professional services that you can hire to do this work.

It wasn’t until she gave me a blank outline with no research that my antennae went up! And then I started to second guess how much of this process I was misunderstanding.

bananafish's avatar

Hey, there are shades of gray here, people. Shades of gray!

(and $1,000 I really, really want)

Les's avatar

@bananafish : No. No there are not. You do not do it for her. There are no shades of gray.

bpeoples's avatar

There are no shades of grey here—if you are doing ORIGINAL RESEARCH for someone else’s thesis (and I assume, not getting a credit, as you would for a paper), it’s unethical at least.

EmpressPixie's avatar

No, she’s completely trying to use you to create work that, honestly, I’m not sure can be completed with quality in six weeks unless you devote your every waking moment to it. And she should be, that’s her job as a grad student. But it’s punishment you don’t need.

Plus, it’s work she would call hers on every resume she ever used. And it wouldn’t be hers at all. You definitely shouldn’t do it. You should consider reporting her to her University beyond that. (Though I can understand why that would be incredibly hard to do.)

You’re smarter than this! And way too nice. I’m glad you asked.

bananafish's avatar

Holy smokes, I never expected this type of response!

First of all, thank you all for smacking some much needed sense into me! Beautiful. I needed a major knock on the head.

As I said above, it seemed more legit when all I had to do was transcribe her notes into written paper form. THEN at least I could’ve slept at night (on my pillow stuffed with money).

You’re all ABSOLUTELY freakin’ right. I am not doing one iota of research. Kisses to all! Mwaaa!

bananafish's avatar

Now, no more bananafish bashing! Don’t hurt the bananafish! Pitchforks away!

janbb's avatar

We won’t hurt you anymore. It’s “a perfect day for bananafish”!

jessturtle23's avatar

Wow, that’s all we need are more incompetent people with degrees. If she can’t do the work she doesn’t deserve the degree.

emilia_eclaire's avatar

I’m really surprised at this grad student’s actions and more so her reasoning behind this. First of all, there’s no way you could do all of her research for her without anyone noticing. That’s ridiculous! Secondly, she would be totally discredited in her field forever if anyone found this out (and they would, because people with advanced degrees don’t eff around).

simpleD's avatar

The only reason I could think of for her to ask you to write her thesis is that you are part of her experiment.

bpeoples's avatar

@bananafish Do you know how hard it is to get a torch to go out after youv’e lit it? Now I have to go organize an angry mob at someone else’s door! =)

Glad you came around!

bananafish's avatar

UPDATE: So I got myself all worked up thinking, “Nahhh, she can’t possibly really want me to write the whole darn thing myself. Must be a misunderstanding!”...and after I pressed her for more information and notes she gave me the big ol’ fat brush-off and told me I obviously “didn’t want the job”.

My reply to her was “Yep, you’re right, I don’t.” And I went on to tell her just how unethical and fraudulent it was. Phew! I feel like a weight’s been lifted off my shoulders.

@bpeoples, sorry to hear about your torch problems, but I have a list of people I can suggest to you, just ripe for the mobbing!

bananafish's avatar

@simpleD,....Oooooh I wonder if you could be right!

Horus515's avatar

No way man. Not even close to ethical. It’s way unethical for her and pretty bad on you too. Then again, if the money is good…well this IS a recession.

Darwin's avatar

I come late to the party but must concur: it is cheating. If you do all that work, then it should be your Master’s thesis, or at least your published paper.

Professors sometimes do something like this, in that all research and any papers that come out of their lab has their name on it as senior author, although the professor’s role may have been little beyond supervisory. But, and this is a big but, the professor has gone through the entire process from concept to experimental design to making and recording observations to writing the project up and getting published at least once, and generally many more times than that.

A graduate student is being “walked through” the research process in order to learn how to do it, what sort of effort it takes, and to prove they can do it. If you do the research and write the thesis you will be subverting the whole process.

wundayatta's avatar

Following on @jessturtle23‘s point, I would like to suggest a scenario. Suppose someone writes this thesis for her, and it earns her her Masters, and she goes out, and get’s a job with human services; perhaps the family services division. Suppose, due to her lack of training, or lack of attention during training, she does not work hard enough to identify, or she doesn’t understand the signs of abuse, and a child dies? Do you want the responsibility for putting that therapist in the job market?

These things have real world consequences. People can really get hurt. That’s why they aren’t ethical.

DrBill's avatar

This is the worse kind of cheating. This is to see if the student know their stuff, not to see if they can hire it done.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

She’s paying you to type her notes?!?!!! Is there a reason that she’s incapable of doing hr own work?

cwilbur's avatar

Actually, I’d be tempted to write the thing for her. That way, when her advisor asks her about some point of research, she can look like an utter idiot, and when she goes before her thesis defense committee, they can fail her because she’s obviously plagiarized her work.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

@cwilbur, any disciplinary action for cheating would affect not only the cheater but the enabler. The responsibility not to cheat lies on both parties.

Jeruba's avatar

No. Not unless the earned degree is going to be in your name.

crisedwards's avatar

No. Don’t do it. You insult the foundations of academia.

Ronberg's avatar

If you look at a site like, it seems that it is every day hustle to hire a ghostwriter to write your thesis .. and it also seems that you don’t have to pay much more than petty cash for the service.

Jeruba's avatar

@Ronberg, I looked. That is alarming. How can three pages of writing cost less than a pizza? The quality of the writing must be appalling, but it is the cheapness that is most distressing to me as a publications professional.

cwilbur's avatar

With online freelancing services like that one, competition from English speakers overseas in places where the cost (or standard) of living is much lower drives the prices way down.

Experienced programmers (well, programmers who say they’re experienced) are asking $15 to $25 an hour. In my local market, experienced programmers can ask $100/hour without causing any real alarm. They’re just not getting their jobs through that website.

ratboy's avatar

Yes, if the price is right.

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