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The rules of engagement among academics are not always the same as the general writing population. While a professional ghostwriter can rework a doctoral thesis just as well as a celebrity tell-all book, academics in general are usually held to a higher standard of intellectual integrity by their peers. Candidates for higher degrees are usually expected to demonstrate a certain mastery of the written language, although some academics would argue that writing ability is not always synonymous with a command of the subject area.
Is it ethical for academics to enlist ghostwriters as writing assistants or editors? Perhaps, as long as the role of the ghostwriter is limited to the structure of the paper, not the substance. Academics in a number of science and mathematics fields are not always strong writers, since their disciplines do not require significant exposure to English composition courses. Hiring a professional writer strictly in an advisory or editorial capacity may not be considered unethical, especially if academics inform the university beforehand.
Reliance on uncredited ghostwriters to perform the actual research or to formulate original thoughts 'in the style of' the actual author. Academics are strongly encouraged to demonstrate a command of their subject matter without reliance on outside researchers. The use of a ghostwriter for a crucial paper is often viewed by other academics as unethical and an affront to academic honest policies. Academics working as educators should apply the same code of ethics to themselves as they would any of their students.
The issue of academics and ghostwriters is usually connected with university-related works, such as doctoral theses and scientific papers. The employment of ghostwriters by academics for other works such as biographies, novels and screenplays is rarely brought into question. Critics may say that academics should not have to rely on these literary hired guns, since they should be perfectly capable of creating quality works on their own. While this may be true for those academics in literary or creative writing fields, other academics in scientific, mathematic and technological fields may need some assistance to ensure their ideas match their expression on paper.
I don't believe the number of academics who would consider hiring ghostwriters would be very high. The embarrassment of getting caught would be a risk. I could see where a busy professor might hire someone to edit and polish a dissertation, but I'd think the content would still be his or hers.
I personally don't think it's ethical for someone who has reached the status of an academic to hire a ghostwriter for an academic project. To me, that's cheating. They would be the first ones to fail a student for buying a term paper online. Academic honesty goes both ways.
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