- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 April 4, 2003 

Paper Work: Grad students get help from research services

Like the educational system in many countries, Armenia's institutions of higher education (IHE) require students to prepare theses as part of their degree requirements.

And, also like other countries, some find ways to shortcut the process.

In the halls of universities in Yerevan, students can find notices for services from which they can buy abstracts and theses.

Doing someone else's work has become a minor industry for certain researchers, some of whom will talk about their questionable service but none of whom would agree to be photographed.

"Mainly graduates from IHEs, who are also postgraduate students, are working with us," says Ruben Sargsyan, who is in charge of one such service. Sargsyan says his clients are primarily those who "don't' have a great interest towards study".

The organization has been functioning for one year (though not registered as a legitimate business). Approximately 30 specialists are writing undergraduate theses, abstracts and even graduation projects and dissertations.

An average paper can be prepared in as little as two to three days, at a cost of about 250-300 drams (about 45-60 cents) per page. A normal abstract can be bought for about $9-12 and a graduate theses for from about $30-60.

Every year several thousand abstracts and undergraduate theses are written and 20 to 30 graduate papers.

Sargsyan says there are more than 50 businesses like his in Yerevan. Sometimes the work is also done by senior students.

For instance, in the Yerevan State Polytechnic University senior students write undergraduate theses and fill notebooks for laboratory works of such subjects as graphics, electro-technics, and applied mechanics.

"Mostly students of different departments of Yerevan Economic University apply to me, more often than students of departments of international relations, Law, economy and Armenian philology of Yerevan State University," said a Yerevan librarian who sells research papers. "They tell about the topic of an abstract, volume and rarely a plan and list of the literature that can be used. I prepare the work in one to two days and give to a student." The librarian's rates are cheaper than other services, only about 30 to 50 cents per page.

"I know from my practice," she says, "that mainly they apply when they know the theme but they work somewhere and have no time for preparing it themselves or they cannot find necessary literature."

The librarian has a degree in economics and graduated 10 years ago. She has been "rendering assistance" for five years. During a year she writes 20 to 25 undergraduate theses and abstracts.

"If I could keep in mind everything I had written I would have probably gone mad by this time," she said. "There were several topics which I was really interested in. I carefully studied them and in other cases I just read different sources and collected different opinions and view points."

While the idea of "renting" a researcher is widespread, educators fear it has detrimental effects.

"The answers during workshop works or exams are mainly bookish and students are not liberated enough," said bachelor of the Faculty of Philosophy of Yerevan State University Armineh Hayrapetyan. "I will never change the pleasure of discovering something, pushing your ideas, proving something and even denying some accepted points of view during preparing abstracts or undergraduate theses for something else. Maybe that's why our students do those kind of works themselves."

Those who are providing the service say if it may not be the best way for students to prepare, it at least is a steady job for those hired for the work.

"Every third person on does this kind of work," the librarian said. "The other third is looking for clients and the other third is thinking about doing the work even though he or she doesn't talk loudly about it."

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