Summer is just around the corner, and unfortunately that means so are finals. Final papers are great because you don’t have to memorize a bunch of stuff, you can write with the source material in front of you. However that also means you have to be able to meet a word count or a page count that can feel pretty overwhelming when you sit down to try to get things done. I have final papers for all four of my classes this semester, so if you have any, too, here are some of my tips so we can get through them together!
- Stuck on research? Go to the library!
Last semester, I decided to take advantage of the research help desk at Emerson’s library, and let me tell you I can’t recommend it enough! One of the librarians there sat down with me at the computer and let me talk about what I was thinking about writing and then showed me some of the ways I could use Emerson’s resources to my advantage. She even emailed me some of the articles she pulled up while I was there! You’re not going to find all of your resources in that session, but it’s a start and it can be a great help to sit down and talk with someone about what you’re thinking of doing before going at it on your own.
- Type down your notes on a document.
Paraphrases, quotes, questions, observations, or whatever else you think of while researching or rereading something, should all be noted, and why not just write them down on a word document, Google Doc, or word processor doc of your choice? You can use headings to sort the notes by the piece you’re referring to, and write down page numbers that go with it. Having everything down in one doc can make it easier to go through, plus then when you’re trying to remember that one thing you noted down to use in your paper instead of scrolling or flipping through pages, you can just use the search option on the doc and type in whatever word is sticking out in your head, and it’s all right there!
- Outline (or create an annotated bibliography).
Personally, I love outlining. It can be as detailed or general as you want. Sometimes I make a really detailed outline, and it can be so nice because then I feel like I have the paper practically written already, and that I just need to fill in the blanks. You can also try out an annotated bibliography if you just want to write down how you’re going to use all your sources for a research paper. If you have to turn in a bibliography/works cited page anyway, this can be a great way to make sure you don’t forget to create it, and you can just write your notes in right there; just make sure to turn in the bibliography without the annotations if your professor doesn’t want an annotated bibliography. From there, you can try to break the writing process into chunks to do each day (or just have a clearer idea of how to write it last-minute).
- Check the rubric.
If your professor handed out a grading rubric or has the rubric on Canvas, be sure to check that out at some point in the writing process. It’s a great key to help you understand how your professor will be assessing the paper, and how you should be approaching the process.
- Get some eyes on your paper.
So depending on when you’re reading this (and when you get a draft done), it might be a little too late to see your professor or go to the writing center. Try asking your friends or anyone you know in class if they want to swap papers. It can be a great way to get some suggestions on your own writing while also seeing if someone understood the criteria the same way that you did. If this isn’t an option, just try to read through it yourself with the rubric pulled up.
Good luck with finals, everyone!