Editor's note: The following blog entry is the third and final part of a Plagiarism Series designed to assist students in online degree programs with proper citation in research papers. To read Part I on how to get caught plagiarizing, please visit here. To read part II on how to avoid plagiarism, please visit here.

When I was first asked to write about plagiarism for the Grantham University blog, I was asked to put together a bulleted list on how to avoid plagiarizing.

If students interested in or enrolled in online degree programs have followed this plagiarism series, they have seen just about everything but a bulleted list. I will remedy that here. I feel like something as big and scary as plagiarism can’t really be handled in 850 words or less (editor’s note: sorry, Tim, it's usually 800 wordsor less - get it right!), but we’ve taken some strides over the past few weeks toward establishing what plagiarism is, why people do it, and why schools and instructors are so against it.

We’ve had some examples that help illustrate what we’ve been talking about. So now we’re at part three; yeah, it’s time for that list.

Because this is just a list this time, this blog might not be all that interesting (was it ever?). I decided that this week, I would not mention the restraining order NT Girl’s parents placed against me (they were very small rocks, and it wasn’t even a school night! Sheesh!). I decided that I wasn’t going to take you down memory lane, even though I found some great ways to connect the horrors of the Great Mustard Panic of ’74 to academic writing.

No, this time, I just want to lay down the ground rules for plagiarism in your online degree program and call it a day.

In five bullet points, here are some words of wisdom about avoiding plagiarism (not intended for children under 7 years of age; adult supervision highly suggested; some assembly required):

  • Any words, ideas, graphs, statistics, pictures, music, videos, finger paintings, architectural designs, concept vehicles, medical charts, comedy sketches, speeches to congress or otherwise, genetic modifications to plant life, court documents, theoretical positions about gravitational sub-harmonic frequencies or other energy systems (even if they are un-provable given the limitations of modern science) . . .  essentially, anything that you did not create yourself and isn’t common knowledge must be cited properly, both in the text and in a references page. No exceptions.
  • Do not cheat. Plagiarism is cheating. If you don’t cheat, you will likely avoid plagiarism. Abstinence from cheating is the most effective way to avoid plagiarism.
  • Don’t allow yourself to procrastinate. Getting started early means you’ll have more time to get it right. If you must procrastinate, at least read the assignment criteria ahead of time so you can think about it while you put it off. That way, you will at least have the benefit of pre-thinking your writing.
  • When in doubt, cite. If you’re still in doubt, ask your instructor. Don’t just throw your essay into the wind and hope it flies. You can’t base your education on hope. Let your instructors instruct. That’s what they are there for.

Need to know more? Drop a question in the comments section. I will be happy to elaborate (much to my editor’s chagrin, I actually love elaborating).

Next week, I will be on vacation, but the show must, as they say, go on.  While I’m off enjoying the art of doing nothing, we should probably take a bit of a break from the serious topic stuff. I’m thinking “Fun with Words: A Lexical Gala" for next Tuesday's blog topic. This will get us started. Tune in on March 26 to read my next blog post.

Tim Goss is a full-time English instructor at Grantham University. He writes this blog weekly for GU in the hope that his readers will be entertained, enlightened, and generally happier, more successful people — that and so he can keep talking about writing stuff without driving his poor wife crazy . . . again (she got better).