Hey everyone, It's that time of the semester again - time to start on those big papers. We all know that the paper is due sometime during the first week of December and that's six whole weeks away! But, time flies when you're procrastinating. Here are some easy tips from our editors to make your paper-writing process easier so you finish in time to edit it and earn that A.
1. Plan Ahead.
I know that we want to start our papers at the last minute before they're due, but that's just not helping our future selves. Put your due dates on your calendar, break down the paper into smaller papers that you can finish in an hour or two. This is also a fabulous chance to reach out to your professors for feedback. Be sure to give the caveat that this is not a completed work! Check here for some tips on asking for feedback. I've found that asking specific questions which show your effort on your writing will encourage the professor to care more about your work when they're grading it! UNC Chapel Hill has even more tips on asking for feedback to make use of that time you put in early for that paper.
This dumb step that we all learned in high school is way more valuable than any of us gave it credit. Even creating a simple list of bullet points is a great first step. Organizing those bullets into a logical order breaks your paper into smaller, easy steps. By making the paper into a few smaller projects you'll be more likely to start it. You can research by the subtopics of your paper and really focus on the key ideas. Even if you don't start writing that paper hecka early, you can put little facts and notes from class or outside research as the deadline approaches. Once those are in place, you really just have to connect the dots!
3. Use your resources
If you're in need of academic support and haven't visited the Academic Support and Access Center, you should check it out immediately. They'll provide you with the additional resources you need to be the most successful student possible. From academic counseling to peer tutoring, this is the place to make sure that you are starting your paper on the right foot. From there, the library offers research assistance and The Writing Center can help you produce a paper that will impress any professor. We pay for all of these resources with our tuition and fees, so take advantage of them whenever you're feeling stuck on an assignment.
4. ...But be mindful of the Academic Integrity Code
So maybe you don't want to go all the way to The Writing Center, can't your roommate just look the paper over instead? No, not unless you want to risk an Academic Integrity Code violation. We often overlook some of the details in the code that don't immediately come to mind when thinking of academic integrity, but knowing what consists of a violation could save your academic career. Some key things to remember while you're working on your final paper are:
- Don't use the same piece of work for multiple classes unless all professors have given explicit permission.
- Always clarify with your professor how much, if any, peer-collaboration is allowed.
- Cite. Cite. Cite.
5. Write, write, write!
This may seem obvious, but you can't edit a blank page. For the first draft, do a "mind-dump" and just get all of your thoughts and arguments down on paper (or typed into your favorite word processor). It doesn't have to make sense to anyone except yourself, and even that might be a stretch. Still, it'll give you a starting point for the next draft, and even give you some guidance on where to take your research. Even if it's a page or two of single-spaced mind vomit, it'll be helpful. I always do this, print out the paper and actually cut it up to rearrange it spatially, which may help if you're a visual person like me.
6. Remember, Write Like an Academic
Time and time again, people forget one major rule for writing a good college essay: never write the way you speak. This is true for any academic writing. Rambling and using colloquialisms is great when you're doing your mind-dump in the rough draft, but as you polish up your logic you have to polish up your grammar and syntax as well. Use the big transition words you would never use in a normal conversation, lead into your quotes and explain them fully, never ramble, and don't be monotonous. If you're struggling to find your academic writing voice, then go back to tip #3 and visit the Writing Center. They, along with your professor, are there to help you cultivate that voice--after all, I doubt your professor wants to go down the rabbit hole of the thought train that made sense to you and you alone.
7. Meet With Your Professor After You Have an Outline and Thesis
Your professors are a great resource! Not only are they most likely and expert on your topic - they're also the one grading the paper. This means that if they tell you your paper needs work, you can reorganize and tackle it again from a new angle keeping their feedback in mind. Professors are aso great at spotting flaws in logic which is why having a whole outline and not just a thesis is a great way for them to see the full breadth of your argument. That being said, it is never fun to write a whole paper and then be told it needs to be reworked. Getting into those office hours early will save you the dread of a last minute crunch.
It's 2 am, you're on your third refill of Mudbox coffe (because it's the only place that's open) and you write that beautiful, painstaking last sentence. There is nothing you want more than to submit and be done with it all. Then you look at the top of that Blackboard submit page and realize you spelled you forgot three commas in the first paragraph...and you spelled your professor's name wrong. You're too exhausted to even care anymore but when the grade comes back with a red inked "Good paper! But there are several mechanical errors throughout" you're going to wish you took the time to read it over. Just reading it out loud once after you're finished can mean a whole lot of change for your grade and your sanity. Just don't do it on the silent floor.