Summary: In this post you will receive information on the ghostwriting of master theses, the legal situation and the dangers of engaging a ghostwriter. The article makes no claim to completeness and legal correctness.
Academic Works: The Affidavit
Anyone who does not write an academic work like a master’s thesis but has it written can have a problem. If the thing flies up, it was the title and degree, with the competent authority, usually the university, a discretion here. To hand over a foreign work under your own name is a serious offense. The own name under the affidavit stands for the own intellectual achievement. If one violates this explanation, the theoretical realization of a criminal offense exists. The exmatriculation without a degree and a fine can be the result. However, care must be taken to ensure that the university or public authority has the legal right to accept an affidavit. In short: The wrong insurance on oath instead is punishable only if the university is allowed to accept such – as a legal mandate. But that is often the case.
Any person who misrepresents or misrepresents such an insurance in lieu of a competent authority to take out an insurance in lieu of an oath shall be punished with imprisonment of up to three years or a fine.
“That does not concern me,” many will say. So it should be, because when foreign ideas are issued as one’s own, academic degrees are superfluous. They do not say anything about a person’s personal capacity and intellectual expertise. After all, every vocational certificate shows how well the examinee has mastered his topic and the exam situation. A very good summary on the subject of “scientific fraud as a crime” is available as a PDF under this link.
Master Thesis: Is academic ghostwriting legal?
But revelations from recent years have shown that some academics have not legitimately acquired their titles because they either plagiarized or employed ghostwriters. Especially in controversial and public areas such as politics, such misconduct by confidants or written memos often comes to light. Ghostwriters can usually research, structure and write scientifically. The demand for their service is growing. That is why dozens of ghostwriting agencies are on the market, many of them based outside Germany.
Legal gray area for commissioned work
They move in a legal gray area, because the production of commissioned work is not punishable. However, which contracting authority would commission a job that he himself is not allowed to use? The small print discreetly points out that exploiting the work under its own name is not possible or even punishable. However, one guarantees that the author or agency never insisted on copyright if it came to a copyright “accident”. Is ghostwriting for academic work now punishable or not?
Anyone else, whether in text form bought or copied, as his own spends, acts usually intentional or negligent and makes a work with a sworn statement possibly punishable. Whoever engages a ghostwriter as a consultant or text coach, uses him as a structurer and proofreading for better German. The client moves in a gray area, but ultimately writes the work himself.
Nonetheless, with clear evidence of ghostwriter support for a thesis, courts will, in almost all cases, decide on a serious scientific misconduct leading to the loss of an academic degree. The master’s thesis is a proof that the candidate has achieved an independent mental and scientific achievement in accordance with the expectations and requirements of the university. A scientific work is – except in exceptional cases – not a teamwork, but a one-off effort.
Academic ghostwriting is punishable
Therefore, the question in the previous paragraph must be clearly answered with “yes”: The term “academic ghostwriting” is a contradictio in adiecto, because a student may not employ a ghostwriter to obtain an academic degree. If he does it, he makes himself liable to prosecution. A research project called “Shameful Science” at the Institute for Research Information and Quality Assurance (IFQ) deals extensively with scientific misconduct.
Incidentally, ghostwriting is completely legal if no affidavit is involved. There are thousands of ghostwriters in Germany writing for politics, industry, entrepreneurs and private individuals. The writer transfers all rights of use to the client, who may publish or perform the work under his name. However, a client will never submit such a work as an academic examination under his name. The key point is that the outside performance in the academic environment leads to a title that was acquired unlawfully.
Reasons for a ghostwriter
The legal situation is clear: Ghostwriting in the academic environment counts as fraud. So how does one come up with the idea of using a ghostwriter?
Reason 1: One is too lazy
The reasons that many people quickly come to mind are simply inability or laziness. Those who have been able to bum well so far but have never really been motivated and interested in their studies now come to a crossroads: a scientific achievement must be provided on their own. And with scant knowledge and little enthusiasm for the topic. Sounds like a problem. Others, meanwhile, meander through their studies elegantly and with little time, but do not feel like working scientifically and thus forfeiting their personal free time. Both groups are potential customers of texts “from the spirit” if they want to take money into their hands.
Reason 2: It’s hard to do academic work
Others are willing and able to write a master’s thesis, but find it hard to find a topic, structure and timing. Maybe they are also not linguistically perfect, so that due to ambiguity and weaknesses in the argument occur.
Reason 3: Personal
If someone has small children or simply sinks into despair and chaos for a variety of personal reasons, time quickly runs out and the risk of failure increases rapidly. Again, hiring a ghostwriter is a way not to jeopardize the degree.
This is what ghostwriting looks like in practice
When quickly scanning posts in a group on a social media channel, I noticed an ad in which someone was looking for a scribe for a scientific VWL text. The alarm bell went off immediately, because you do not write scientific texts for yourself, but for university or college.
Here, a person searches for a social media channel, a service provider who writes a short text VWL text. The short-term nature is suspicious, because scientific work can be planned.
Thus, within 24 hours a scientific text from the field of economics is needed. Since the client posted under the real name, it was not difficult to find him / her in a career portal. And right: The person is currently studying and has a study module with economics.
A quick search brought light into the darkness: The commissioning person is currently studying at the Steinbeis University of Berlin, the subject Business Administration / Economics is part of the training as a module. Here, modules are usually queried and graded in chores. A scientific text with deadline from a student: Is it ringing now?
A rogue who thinks evil. Of course, first of all the presumption of innocence, but it has a huge “Gschmäckle” when a student of a private university with paid courses in a social media group a scientific text with deadline requests. It is not provable, but I am firmly convinced that the person did not do the housework and urgently needed a ghostwriter. Whether this was due to inability or time trouble, remains an open question. In any case, a service provider from the group has reported and sent a private message to the person. What has become of it: I do not know. Probably a housework, which was paid and foreign written.
Delivered to the service provider
Many agencies and ghostwriters frolic on the market. Interestingly, ghostwriters in Switzerland are often searched for in Germany. Clients presumably associate confoederatio helvetica with reliability and discretion as two Swiss virtues. But one thing should be clear when ordering: One is at the mercy of the service provider. Even if the portal, the agency or the person guarantees anonymity, a sword of Damocles hovers over the client. If there are any discrepancies or the performance does not seem appropriate, the customer has little to no possibilities.
What to do if you fail?
What should a client do when he fails with the expensive master thesis? Make a complaint and reclaim the money? No chance. In addition, the ghostwriter at the university can put him in the pillory. It is no big feat to find a university and a supervisor for a client. With research techniques and common sense this is not too difficult. As a customer of a ghostwriter achievement with a sworn statement you always have the worst possible cards. The master thesis with Ghostwriter means a very high risk.
At the same time, here are the weaknesses of our education system in pure culture: too little time for the supervision of students, inflation of academic degrees, anonymity between lecturers and students, no control of benefits.
Academic ghostwriting: expensive and dangerous
The easiest, but also the most expensive and the most dangerous method is to have the complete master’s thesis written and give it this way 1: 1. In addition to the certainty that the work is in the hands of a stranger and may not be kept safe, the text is not his own ideas and will not fit perfectly. Alone in the defense, this can be dicey when detailed questions arise that one can not answer as a “layman”. As already mentioned at the beginning: The act was already committed with the delivery of a work with an affidavit.
Regardless of the moral issue, there are several ways to use a ghostwriter within the legal gray area:
- The ghostwriter is used as a coach for topic limitation, approach and text. Sometimes hints and tips are enough to get ahead.
- The customer creates an agenda together with the ghostwriter and plans to build up the work. It’s much easier to write with a clear structure.
- The master thesis is only edited. Content-related deficiencies and illogical reasoning become visible and then eliminated.
- Sources and quotes are selected or delivered by the writing coach. These complement the reasoning and structure.
- The ghostwriter is used for selective support and only helps if it does not go any further.
Even if these points lie in a diffuse range of support, they are already under-grinding when applying a strict standard, because the performance was no longer provided independently. At most, it would be possible to pass on a counter reading of the work by another person, because this will only put spelling and grammar into shape. A court will always decide in favor of the university or college in the gray area.
Let others write can be dangerous
One should never forget the danger: Even if most universities do not (yet) have the opportunity to prove a performance that has been scored, their archives are meant for eternity. Fraud can only come to light after decades, as some popular cases have shown in recent years. Thus, there is a valid reason for a termination without notice by the current employer, possibly even claims for damages. Add to that the damaged reputation. Anyone who cheated on his thesis in a big way could not have left it this time.
Even ghostwriters do not come so easily when their identity is revealed. You can be accused of aiding and abetting fraud. However, the aid for fraud presupposes that the so-called main offense is a fraud. The pretending of ignorance does not help much: If you write a complete master’s thesis for a lot of money, you expect that the customer will use it in this form.
Free help at the university
By the way: Help is also available at the writing centers of universities and their Career Centers. In vain. However, if you do not want to write your final thesis yourself, you should consider whether he really needs the degree. Without a certificate, you can achieve something that many university dropouts or people with vocational training can prove. Due to the large number of ghostwriters in the network, it should be clear that more false academics will be on the way. Universities can only reduce fraud by providing better careers, changing exam types and using modern software. Employers should be advised during the job interview to ask detailed questions about the final thesis or even to prepare an individual task within the scope of the assessment. It all costs time. But even more time and money will cost a company to replace cheaters and curb the image damage.
Michael Rassinger writes academic papers only for himself. As a ghostwriter, he works for clients who publish works without an affidavit under their own name or in co-authorship. He describes the creation of his own master thesis in the article Master thesis in 17 days, tips and tools are presented in the article Master thesis successfully.