Technology can do amazing things these days, but can it make a bad student better?

Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, says no.

In an attempt to reveal the prevalence of plagiarism and to receive insight into the shrouded world of essay mills, Ariely ordered academic papers from mills as if he were a student himself. In an article about his experiment published last month in the LA Times, he concludes that the papers were pretty terrible.

With the help of his assistant, Ariely contacted four essay mills, and asked each to write on the ironic topic of "When and why do people cheat?"

He described the specifics of his request in his paper, writing:

We requested a term paper for a university-level social psychology class, 12 pages long, using 15 sources (cited and referenced in a bibliography). The paper was to conform to American Psychological Assn. style guidelines and needed to be completed in the next two weeks. All four of the essay mills agreed to provide such a paper, charging us in advance, between $150 and $216 for the paper.

Ariely describes that the articles he received were "gibberish," as if written by someone who is not a native English speaker. He highlights some stand-out sections, quoting paragraphs such as "Cheating by healers. Healing is different. There is harmless healing, when healers-cheaters and wizards offer omens, lapels, damage to withdraw, the husband-wife back and stuff. We read in the newspaper and just smile. But these days fewer people believe in wizards."

Despite their costs, Ariely's work shows that the academic quality of these papers is not far from abysmal. Further, he writes that a number of the essays were plagiarized from other sources, and that when he brought this up with the mills they did not refund him, denying that they had copied the work. One of the companies even threatened to report him to his dean, still believing that Ariely was a student, according to Ariely.

His message to students: don't waste money, time and dignity with these companies.

This experiment can be found in Dan Ariely's recently published book "The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty." Also visit Dan Ariely's website to see read about some of his other research.

Earlier on HuffPost:

Most Beautiful Campuses
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  • Boston University

    With a storied history, bustling sports culture, and more than 50 colleges in the city, Boston is one of the most exciting places in the country to be a student, and BU is right in the thick of it. "Often, friends and I would go around the city to eat in Boston's 'little Italy' the North End, or catch a Red Sox game, or go to a local bar and shoot pool. The benefit, for me, of going to college within a city was there never seemed to be a <a href="http://www.unigo.com/boston_university/reviews/3300/ " target="_hplink">shortage of anything to do</a>," says Rachel, a theatre major. Since BU does not have a traditional campus like nearby Northeastern or Harvard, Boston is a major part of every student's day-to-day life. For most, this is a highlight. Sarah, an international relations student, says, "Boston is one the best things about <a href="http://www.unigo.com/boston_university/ " target="_hplink">BU</a>. It is such an amazing city <a href="http://www.unigo.com/boston_university/reviews/19964/ " target="_hplink">to be a student in</a>."

  • College of Charleston

    Charleston is one of the most charming and picturesque cities in the South. Alongside beautiful, historic architecture is a thriving culture filled with exciting restaurants, bars, and clubs. "The location is amazing- downtown Charleston is beautiful and there is always <a href="http://www.unigo.com/college_of_charleston/reviews/2281/ " target="_hplink">something to do</a>," claims Amy, an education major. The <a href="http://www.unigo.com/college_of_charleston/ " target="_hplink">College of Charleston</a> is conveniently located not only for the city, but the surrounding areas as well. Andrea, a biology student, boasts, "Charleston is a vacation destination for many people, so it is cool to live in a place other people are only lucky enough to visit. The beach is 10 minutes away, and on the weekends the campus is deserted due to all the beach bums and surfers who couldn't get to the beach fast enough after class on Friday afternoon. The downtown atmosphere is nice because there is always something to do <a href="http://www.unigo.com/college_of_charleston/reviews/785/ " target="_hplink">within walking distance</a>."

  • New York University

    For students who want to be in the center of, well, everything, there's no place better than <a href="http://www.unigo.com/new_york_university/ " target="_hplink">NYU</a>. Located in New York's Greenwich Village, NYU is in one of the most exciting, fast-paced (and expensive!) neighborhoods in the country. "We're in New York City. Endless opportunities to keep busy. Depending on the weather, the park scene is rockin from the east to the west side. Museums, from the MoMA to the Whitney to Madame Tussaud's, are always a good call. Plus, NYU's discount helps quite a bit. There are poetry clubs and comedy shows, sports games and <a href="http://www.unigo.com/new_york_university/reviews/19247/ " target="_hplink">street performances</a>," explains Victor, a journalism student. Another junior in NYU's business school says, "Of course being in New York City there is always something to do, whether it is going to comedy clubs, dance clubs, jazz clubs, plays, bars, restaurants, museums, sporting events, movies, and just about anything and everything <a href="http://www.unigo.com/new_york_university/reviews/19557/ " target="_hplink">to fit someone's personality</a>."

  • Tulane University

    In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, <a href="http://www.unigo.com/tulane_university_of_louisiana/ " target="_hplink">Tulane University</a> was forced to close its doors for the first time since the Civil War. Like the city it calls home, however, Tulane bounced back and remains a prestigious and exciting place to study and occasionally revel in a night of good 'ole debauchery. "The best thing about Tulane is definitely being in New Orleans and the nightlife associated with that. There is <a href="http://www.unigo.com/tulane_university_of_louisiana/reviews/24615 " target="_hplink">always something going on!</a>" says a Tulane sophomore. "There is a lot of great music in New Orleans and a lot of really yummy places to eat. Off campus I go to <a href="http://www.unigo.com/tulane_university_of_louisiana/reviews/24615 " target="_hplink">bars and restaurants within walking distance</a>."

  • University of California-Berkeley

    <a href="http://www.unigo.com/university_of_california-berkeley/ " target="_hplink">Berkeley</a> is often considered a utopia for the liberal-minded academic, and for good reason. Not only is the city home to one of the country's top universities, but Berkeley is perfectly situated between the nearby mountains and the bustling cultural center of San Francisco. "The big picture is that Berkeley is big, so pretty much anything you want is here. The town doesn't stay out too late, and BART closes at 12:30 (which is a downright shame) but it's never hard to find a happening abode or party with which to meet people. If parties aren't your thing (as they are often overflowing with tools) there are tons of other things to do, <a href="http://www.unigo.com/university_of_california-berkeley/reviews/21799 " target="_hplink">especially in SF</a>," explains Ben, a senior. Another student explains further: "There are plenty of student organizations and activities both on campus and nearby in the Bay Area. Being in a university with tens of thousands of students as well as next to a liberal metropolitan area gives you more options than you can <a href="http://www.unigo.com/university_of_california-berkeley/reviews/23061/ " target="_hplink">probably explore in 4 years</a>."

  • University of Colorado-Boulder

    With delicious restaurants and bars packed wall-to-wall, pedestrian marketplaces lined with high end retail stores, and nationally-renowned music venues, <a href="http://www.unigo.com/university_of_colorado_at_boulder/ " target="_hplink">Boulder</a> might just be the perfect college town. Oh, and did we mention that the town sits at the base of the Rocky Mountains?! "The best thing about Boulder is the endless list of outdoor activities that newcomers can dive into. You can climb the flat irons, you can go skiing or snowboarding, mountain biking, hiking, backpacking, camping, even longboarders <a href="http://www.unigo.com/university_of_colorado_at_boulder/Reviews/22881/ " target="_hplink">have many challenging hills to bomb here</a>," says Andrew, a junior. If the town and surrounding areas isn't enough to pique your interest, students also rave about the campus itself. According to Bonnie, a sociology major, "The best thing about Boulder is the beautiful campus. <a href="http://www.unigo.com/university_of_colorado_at_boulder/Reviews/4349 " target="_hplink">It is one of the most beautiful campuses in the country</a>."

  • University of Oregon

    "Eugene is the <a href="http://www.unigo.com/university_of_oregon/reviews/22269/ " target="_hplink">epitome of a college town</a>," says one senior. Oregon is home to some of the country's most beautiful scenery, both coastal and in the mountains. Outdoor enthusiasts will find endless activities, and those who prefer the occasional urban indulgence will get their fill in Eugene. Katie, a sophomore shares her love for the school: "The <a href="http://www.unigo.com/university_of_oregon/ " target="_hplink">UO</a> is the best campus I've ever seen. It's a perfect college town, has enough people in attendance to get lost if you want and not too many to remain that way forever. There's enormous school pride, and the vibe on campus is a positive one. <a href="http://www.unigo.com/university_of_oregon/reviews/22247/" target="_hplink">I don't want to go anywhere else</a>."

  • University of Texas-Austin

    Austin has always been the black sheep of Texas cities, and we mean that in the best way possible. With the unofficial slogan, "Keep Austin weird," this is as ideal a setting for someone experiencing life out of the nest for the first time. "Austin is chock full of entertainment options for students to explore, and it might very well take 4+ years to get to know the city. 6th Street, SoCo, SoLa, Barton Springs, are just some of the fantastic locales and neighbors in the eclectic <a href="http://www.unigo.com/university_of_texas_at_austin/reviews/24273/ " target="_hplink">city of Austin</a>," explains a UT business student. <a href="http://www.unigo.com/university_of_texas_at_austin/ " target="_hplink">UT-Austin</a> is full of students who love to get out of the dorms and do something, whether it's exploring the city or getting out of dodge and enjoying nature. Jordan, a senior, has this to say: "Social life at UT is one of the most fun things about it. I love going downtown, eating at all of the restaurants in Austin, and <a href="http://www.unigo.com/university_of_texas_at_austin/reviews/5038/ " target="_hplink">taking advantage of the outdoors</a>."

  • University of Vermont

    In many ways, Burlington is an east coast version of Boulder. Both are ideal college towns with an exciting music scene and vibrant restaurant and nightlife culture. "The town of Burlington is probably the best part of the college. Burlington is really laid back, and the people who live there really embrace the fact that a bunch of college kids live there for part of the year. There are great bars, also the scenery is awesome. There's nothing better than getting to see the mountains in the distance while you're <a href="http://www.unigo.com/university_of_vermont/reviews/10647/ " target="_hplink">on the way to class</a>," says Casey, a sophomore. Like CU-Boulder, <a href="http://www.unigo.com/university_of_vermont/" target="_hplink">UVM</a> has one of the most breath-taking backdrops of any college, with Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains to the west and the Green Mountains to the East. Students at UVM are unanimous in their love of their school, the town, and the state of Vermont. "Burlington is the perfect college town, Lake Champlain, bars, outdoors stuff like skiing, hiking, hockey/ bball games. There's a lot of <a href="http://www.unigo.com/university_of_vermont/reviews/24537/ " target="_hplink">Vermont pride here</a>."

  • University of Wisconsin-Madison

    Madison, like the school that calls this city home, is one of those places that can appeal to pretty much anybody. Karl, a freshman, says, "<a href="http://www.unigo.com/university_of_wisconsin-madison/" target="_hplink">Wisconsin</a> is a big school that makes the city of Madison what it is. There are lots of opportunities for people to do whatever they want and there will be some place on campus where everyone will be able to fit in. The city itself is fun and vibrant and there is always <a href="http://www.unigo.com/university_of_wisconsin-madison/reviews/8479/ " target="_hplink">something to do if you look for it</a>." Sarah, a senior education student, expands on some of the perks of Madison, "The possibilities and opportunities are endless--great farmers market, lakes surrounding the area to canoe or kayak on, diverse group of people, job opportunities, great outdoor clubs, <a href="http://www.unigo.com/university_of_wisconsin-madison/reviews/8422/ " target="_hplink">strong faculties...</a>"