"I've always wanted a Ph.D.," the email said. "But now that I've finished my coursework, I've lost interest."
I recalled my own grad school days in the early '90s, and the thrill of moving from the classroom into the field for that final year of researching and writing and looking ahead to a job. But this student had in mind an option that never occurred to me.
"How much would you charge to do all my research, write my dissertation, and brief me on what to say when I defend my work in front of my doctoral committee?"
WHAT? Yes, people have sought shortcuts with their writing since Og the caveman first carved his name into the cave wall, but I was shocked by the brazen nature of his request.
"I just want the initials by my name--the credentials. I'm not planning to change jobs or anything."
Well, in that case . . .
I asked him where he was enrolled, so I could (ahem) get familiar with the institution's dissertation guidelines.
I thought about saying it would cost $240,000 for three years' worth of getting up to speed on the subject, doing the research, and writing the thing, but then realized he might actually be agreeable. Instead, I told him that what he wanted was unethical and I could not do it.
I thought about how the year I spent working on my dissertation taught me how to think, and how to gather and process information. How to ask the right questions. That year was one of the best of my life, and sharpened my skills in almost every possible way.
I ended up feeling sorry for the guy. He never said which university it was, except that it was highly regarded . . . and Christian.
--Ann Kellett, Ghostwriter
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