Ghostwriting, particularly when used in conjunction with freelance writers, is a huge industry today as people struggle to meet high standards for original content on their blogs and websites. The clientele for this type of writing is diverse. Small businesses want to ensure their sites rank high enough on search engines to generate traffic. Large industries use ghostwriters to demonstrate and retain authority on their subjects. Not all ghostwriting is this innocuous, though. The trend has shifted and has now entered the academic field, where hiring a freelance writer to ghostwrite your work takes on a new question of ethicalness.
Ghostwriting itself is not illegal, but when you are a student who hires someone else to write your paper, giving you the credit, or an instructor who hires a ghostwriter to write your research paper, submitting it for high impact ratings, there are concerns as to the ethical nature of this action.
What is Ghostwriting?
The career of ghostwriting has been around for centuries, but only recently has it begun to take off as a lucrative and legitimate way for freelancers and writers to make an income. Ghostwriters market themselves to be hired for those who need content written. They take the money to write the content but don’t take the credit for it. The person paying the ghostwriter typically assigns themselves as the author of the text.
As the author, this person gets the credit for work produced, regardless of the outcome of that content. The ghostwriter retains no rights for the work, again regardless of the impact that may come from it.
The Problems with Ghostwriting in Academia
In the general world, people don’t have to deal with logistics like plagiarism when they hire a ghostwriter. It’s the job; it’s part of the expectations that come with marketing yourself as a ghostwriter and knowing that you are giving up the right to be credited for your work.
In academia, however, plagiarism is a very real, very serious concern. In both ghostwriting and plagiarism, the material is created by someone other than the person who is labeling themselves as the author. In ghostwriting, the author and writer are each on the same page as to the rights and permissions that go with the job. In plagiarism, however, the content is stolen without proper attribution to the original writer.
Ghostwriting is a transaction between two people who agree on the terms. It has a place for its use and is frequently acceptable in commercial publishing, such as textbooks, and online content. The original authorship of the content does not have a direct correlation on the audience and how they see the author.
Plagiarism is anonymous, with the benefits only given to the plagiarizer, and is most commonly seen in academic situations. But the original authorship, in this case, is important since their grades or reputation are directly impacted by the idea that they wrote the content in question.
Navigating the Ethics of the Practice
As a student, the content that is turned in under your name should be your work entirely. No ghostwriting or plagiarism is ethically acceptable. Legally, there may be different avenues to the consequences of turning in work that is not your own, but ethically, you should be doing the work yourself.
Some of the biggest issues that bring the practice of ghostwriting into the ethical spotlight include things like grants and scholarships. If you are applying for a financial bonus with work not your own, you could receive the money unjustly while others who did write their own work still continue to struggle when rightfully the grant or scholarship should be theirs.
This is also a domino effect of grades if one individual is able to obtain a scholarship because of a higher grade point average than the person right below them, but the winner was chosen because of ghostwritten content bumping up their grades.
When it comes to research articles, this practice goes to another level. When a researcher turns in work for publication that is not their own, their impact rating is affected directly. Because the work was not theirs but they are taking credit for it, they may not have the knowledge that is attributed to them. This becomes an ethical violation.
If you must use a ghostwriter to work through part of your research, ensure that they are given proper attribution to successfully navigate this part of your submission.