Q: Jill, I’ve really been feeling tapped out with a lot of my writing assignments at school. Last week my friend and I were talking about an upcoming English essay we’re working on and, frankly, we were considering doing some Internet surfing to see what help, if any, we could get to complete the essay. At least just a starting point to help us get some fresh ideas for the comparison paper. I know plagiarism is wrong, but I have to admit it can be tempting when you are stressed out and the reviews are right there on the Internet.



A: My biggest piece of advice is a warning against plagiarism. If you’ve even considered it once, remove it from your mind as an option because educators are 10 steps ahead of you!


Sites like Turnitin.com are online services that allows educators to electronically compare students’ papers with literally billions of other papers and ideas from published essays and reviews.


If your paper is flagged by this online service, you will likely receive a zero for the assignment and may received some other academic penalties, such as a zero for the class or being removed from the program. Now, I’m not saying students can’t use ideas from other research, I’m just reminding you to always practise proper referencing when referring to any idea, concept, theory or quote that is not your own.

The MLA Handbook For Writers Of Research Papers 5th Edition by Joseph Gibaldi really helped me get through university.

Usually if you plan in advance and organize your time, the urge you might feel to cheat when you’re against the buzzer will significantly decrease. Once you get your assignment take it home and think about it. Start doing some point-form notes on the directions you think you might take — what topics will you discuss in the paper? What might your thesis be? What research will you use to prove it?

Once you’ve got that preliminary work done make an appointment with your instructor. He or she can give your some feedback on whether or not you’re going in the right direction. This is feedback you’ll never get when you are rushing the essay the night before.

When we procrastinate and something goes wrong in the final hour we become more open to trying deceptive means to getting the job done, such as plagiarism or buying essays online.

Your best strategy is to start early and to connect with the instructor once you sense a real hurdle.

jill’s tip of the week

When requesting an extension there are certain things you can do to help increase your chances of being granted the extra time.

  • Don’t just ask for an extension, but be ready to show what work you've accomplished thus far and elaborate on the specific areas of the assignment you don't understand. Remember the more engaged in the work you appear the more your request won't seem like an excuse.

  • Provide the instructor with your projected date of completion. For example, “I am requesting a one-week extension.” Again, you want to outline how you'll complete the work in the time you're given. This shows you've actually got a plan.

  • If you receive the extension you must complete the assignment within the time you are given. If you are late again you will be forfeiting your chance of ever being trusted with another chance.