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Nobuhiko Sugiura

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Risks of Thesis Writing Services and the Faculty's New Approach

Nobuhiko Sugiura
Professor, Chuo Graduate School of Strategic Management
Areas of Specialization: Financial Law, IT Law

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What are thesis writing services?

The term “copy and paste” has suddenly become the focus of attention in connection with the problem of the writing of a thesis on STAP cells. Although unconditional and unrestricted copying and pasting is not encouraged, it is not completely denied in the ordinary academic world if it is done to clarify the similarities or differences with one’s own assertions and if the sources of excerpts from past research are made obvious, and researchers basically do it. Recently, however, thesis writing services have appeared on the scene and are being used by undergraduate and graduate students to get someone else to write their thesis for them. Looking at the websites of a few of these operators, they claim to be able to deliver a graduation thesis, whether in the arts or the sciences, of around 20,000 characters at a rate of 10 yen per characters, and go so far as to say that their staff are “top-class writers who include PhD graduates.” A simple search shows that there is a significant number of these websites and that there must therefore be a proportionate number of users. The situation seems to be similar in the West, where these so-called “essay mills” have become a major issue in research fraud.

The problems of thesis writing services

Readily requesting an agency for a graduation thesis, master’s thesis, or doctoral thesis, which is the sum total of the results of one’s own studies in the form of reports, papers and research activities, is a moral issue because it is avoiding a job that one should do oneself. But there are legal issues too. Firstly, if we view the use of such a service in a similar light to the proxy exam-taking case (Supreme Court, November 29, 1994) in which a person took an examination pretending to be the candidate, it can be considered as a violation of Article 159 of the Penal Code, that is, counterfeiting of a private document. In that case, an agency’s accepting a request from a student for a thesis and writing it in the student’s name is the same as the act of taking an exam in place of the real candidate, which is an act of identity fraud, and the student who has requested the service is complicit in the act of counterfeiting a private document. Furthermore, if the person who does the actual writing willfully copies and pastes text or experimental data from other dissertations or papers, there is a possibility of the client, that is, the student who requested the writing of the thesis under his or her own name, also being accused by the original writer of copyright infringement.

Of course, instructors normally understand the state of progress of the research and the writing ability of the student, and it is easy to get found out for having a thesis written on one’s behalf. In recent years, online tools such as Turnitin for checking and detecting levels of similarity between reports and theses have also appeared, enabling obvious cases of copying and pasting to be quickly identified, and the use of such tools at universities and research institutes is being increasingly promoted. As a result, substitute writing done by a thesis writing service stands a considerable chance of being found out, and if any fraud is judged to have occurred in a thesis, the student receives a punishment from the university as a matter of course in relation to his or her position, credits or graduation certification.

On the other hand, if students rewrite their thesis in order to undergo thesis coaching or presentation coaching, or prepare written materials for someone else who will write the thesis for them, in practice there is hardly any difference in terms of effort compared with if they had written the paper themselves, and so the issue arises as to whether it is really efficient to use such a service.

From this perspective, given the considerable risk to the client and the lack of any long-term benefit, it is easy to see what a waste it is to blindly use such thesis writing services, however temporarily attractive they may be.

Plagiarism issues and university education

The scientific learning attitude of questioning things in order to find the truth and resolve problems is the driving force behind research, and using one’s own ideas and thought processes to solve the puzzle of why something happens is a common fascination not only in physics and engineering but in the broader scientific field. This is done more efficiently these days with developments in IT technology, and numerous tools have appeared as people tend to convey their ideas more quickly. In a way, the thesis writing services I have mentioned here are one such tool. Recently, a new kind of copy-and-paste problem has emerged, including cases of students simply downloading entire programs, actually created by someone else, from SNS, as a result of which the students unwittingly commit copyright infringement or the programs pose a security problem. Universities therefore have to bring students’ attention not only from the standpoint of the issue of getting involved in plagiarism, but also from the perspective of cyber security.

In these circumstances, various signs of the establishment of norms can be seen in universities and companies, but ultimately the most important thing may be to teach the existence of norms within education and to take measures to prevent such problems from occurring. In the Faculty of Science and Engineering, two new courses, Technology and the Law, which I teach, and the omnibus style, Ethics and Science Technology have been established from this academic year as common courses under the single catchphrase “The Faculty of Science and Technology with strong legal knowledge, ” and have attracted the interest of a large number of students, each course being taken by 200 mainly first and second year students. I hope that the knowledge the students gain from these lectures on the ethics of engineers, intellectual property law, and business legal affairs will help them to develop self-respect as engineers and lead to an awareness of the risks that may befall them and an improvement in their practices.

Nobuhiko Sugiura
Professor, Chuo Graduate School of Strategic Management
Areas of Specialization: Financial Law, IT Law
Professor Sugiura was born in 1966. He graduated from the Faculty of Law, Chuo University in 1989. In the same year, he joined the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. He later served as Research Fellow at the Financial Services Agency of Japanese Government and as Senior Legal Advisor at JPMorgan Securities Japan before taking up his current post in 2008 . While working, he also studied at Chuo University’s Graduate School of Law and completed the Civil Law doctoral program in 2004, gaining a PhD in Law. His areas of specialization are financial law, IT law, corporate compliance theory, and legal systems concerning online financial transactions. As Special Research Fellow at the Financial Services Agency, he is currently engaged in studies and investigations promoting the introduction of an electronically recorded monetary claims system overseas. He is also a member of the Cabinet Office’s Consultation Meeting in Relation to Multiple Debt Problem, Consumer Finance, etc., an advisor to OpenID Foundation Japan, and Special Director of Japan Payment Service Association.
His publications (as writer or co-writer) include: Innovations in Payment Services [Kessai Sabisu no Inobeshon] (Diamond, Inc., 2010); Mobile Value Business [Mobairu Baryu Bijinesu] (Chuokeizai-sha, Inc., 2008); Innovation in Retail Finance [Riteiru Kinyu no Inobeshon] (Kinzai, 2013); Cyber Security [Saiba Sekyuriti] (NTT Publishing, 2014).