So You Think You Can Start A Term Paper?
We’ve all been there. Sitting at our desk staring into the bright laptop screen with a blank Word document mocking us. In this moment we question whether or not we really need to write that term paper. I mean, an assignment that’s 30 percent of your grade isn’t worth that much, right? Wrong. Don’t succumb to the laziness that is procrastinating a paper.
DO YOU HAVE ENOUGH TIME?
Scheduling enough time to plan, research and write is the most important tip of all. Feeling rushed results in a crappy paper. Sure, procrastination is part of the college aesthetic, but waiting until the day before the due date to write a paper, especially if it’s weighted heavily in your class, will eventually be your downfall. Make sure that you finish any other tasks before sitting down to write, that way there are no other obligations lingering above you as you write. Funneled all of your attention into writing a kick-ass term paper.
WHAT ARE YOU WRITING?
If you’re writing a paper on a book your class read for Intro to International Relations, it’d be hard to get a good grade writing about the newest Hunger Games movie. For many classes, term paper topics are already chosen for you and you don’t have much choice but to stick to the prompt. If you have no interest in the topic, learn to like it for the time being, because your grade depends on it. Meanwhile, some classes permit a bit more creative freedom by presenting a broad prompt and allowing you to write about almost anything within those limits. If you’re lucky enough to experience the latter, feel #blessed. Use this to your advantage and pick a topic that you’ll enjoy spending hours researching and writing about to make the battle more bearable.
ARE YOU COMFORTABLE?
Now you know the topic you’re writing about, typing is nearly impossible because you’re too hot or too cold. Though you love working in the library, sometimes you might end up researching how to stay warm in an artic tundra instead of what you really need to be concentrating on. To combat this, I end up packing a blanket and fuzzy socks whenever I go. The key to starting your paper is to get rid of as many distractions as you can and keeping your mind focused on research and writing.
WHERE ARE YOU?
It’s not surprising to find your library regulars in their favorite corner on the fourth floor with their double shot of espresso trying to understand chemistry before a big exam. Then there’s the person who yaps away yet manages to get through 30 physicsproblems without trouble. Some need peace and quiet to get work done, while others find being around peers help them stay on task. It took me time to figure out I need peace and quiet (I talk a lot), and everyone is different. Whether you’re sitting on the union lawn or in your dorm’s common room, find the ideal work zone beneficial to starting to a term paper.
WHAT DO YOU KNOW?
Knowledge is power. Think about it this way: telling a story is easier if you’re the one who experienced it, compared to telling a story about your sister’s boyfriend’s cousin’s friend. Some students try to simultaneously research and write to save time or try to get done quicker. Ultimately, that doesn’t work in their favor. There’s a reason your science fair project in the fourth grade included a “background research” portion. Learning the material beforehand will allow thoughts and ideas to flow smoothly. That way, you won’t find yourself struggling to understand your topic as well as decide which transition word fits best. Now half the battle is complete.
DO YOU HAVE A PLAN?
You have all this information in front of you and feel even more overwhelmed now. But that’s okay, because the hardest part is over. Similar to the itinerary you have for vacations, organize your paper in the same manner. What’s the first thing you want to do? Or in this case, what is the first idea you want to mention? Outline what each paragraph will be about so once you start writing all you have to do is fill in the blanks with specific details. I used to dread outlines in high school, but now that I see them as a useful tool, I can’t start a paper any other way.
WHERE IS THE STARTING LINE?
Introduction. Three body paragraphs. Conclusion. Many of us who have had a middle school language arts class learned this formula to write an A+ essay. But you know what they say: Rules were meant to be broken. Now that you’re earning a higher education, it’s okay to get rid of the simple and easy route. Writing a paper is difficult, but sometimes the actual beginning of a paper proves to be the most challenging. Ever tried skipping the introduction all together? You should. Try writing the thesis and then move onto the body of the paper, coming back for that hooking intro later.
HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU’RE FINISHED?
5,000 words later, you hit save and are home free. You did it. You started and finished a term paper. That alone is reason to binge watch The Office for the third time. But don’t hit play just yet; step away from your laptop for a few minutes or hours and then go back to proofread. Coming back after a small break allows you to see mistakes that you might have overlooked otherwise. If you have time, have a friend proofread it, too. They’ll let you know if sentences transition smoothly and make sense. Now you are done. Now fall into the black hole of Netflix marathons.