The 6 Stages of Writing a Term Paper

It’s that time of the year again. Midterms have finally come to a close and right when you were feeling a little bit of freedom from academic responsibilities for the first time in weeks, tragedy strikes when your professor posts the rubric for your final paper on Blackboard. But it’s no big deal, right? I mean the due date isn’t until December, you have a whole month. That’s plenty of time, right? Here are the stages that you are inevitably about to go through before that hard copy finally touches your professor’s hands.

1. Timeline Denial

When the due date for an assignment isn’t in the same month that you’re getting the rubric for it, the thought of even doing anything related to the work immediately goes to the back of your mind. It’s November right now and the paper isn’t due till December? That’s a month away, you’ve got plenty of time. It doesn’t matter what day of November you are saying this or how close to the beginning of December the due date is, no matter what it’s a month away in your soul.

2. Procrastination

Once that two-and-a-half-week mark comes up from the due date the assignment will slowly worm its way back into the forefront of your mind. It will be a constant nagging thought, but a thought that will easily be pushed away with the work of other classes that’s due that week or finally doing the laundry that’s been piled up in your room. Maybe you’ll come up with two or three paper topics for your future self to choose from and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

3. Panic

You’ll probably be a week and a half from the due date or driving yourself home for the Thanksgiving holiday when the realization suddenly hits that the paper isn’t actually due in a month. The panic will come in tandem with the realization that in a month the semester will be over and it’ll be the winter holidays and you still have no idea what you’re getting any of your friends for that holiday party you said you’d go to. This panic will lead to an attempt to do some work over Thanksgiving, but only getting a rough outline mapped because you left all your notes at school and, honestly, who wants to do homework when it’s a holiday?

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4. The Writing Frenzy

December has struck, the paper’s now due at the end of the week and you’ve finally entered the work mode state of mind. You’ve trapped yourself in the library for the past 3 days surrounded by notes and extremely marked up textbooks. At this point, you’ve most likely made the transition from a normal human person to something entirely running off of anxiety and caffeine. The quality of the work that you’re shooting out is questionable at best, but at this point, you just need to get up to word count.

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5. The “Well Deserved” Break

Once the word count reaches around 200 words under what’s actually required, all of the panic and anxiety will begin to fall to the side and slip away. It doesn’t really matter how close you are to an actual ending or if you’ve slipped in any of the citations you were supposed to. The end is close enough that you can safely convince yourself everything is going to be okay because you know your grade won’t end up being a zero.

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6. The 11:59 p.m. Turn in

On the actual day that the paper is due you will suddenly remember at 7 p.m. that you never actually added those last 200 hundred words or added your citations or read back through the paper to fix all your mistakes and make sure that everything actually makes sense. This will lead to chugging an unhealthy amount of energy drinks to wake yourself up enough to make it to the end and hoping with all your might that the university’s wifi doesn’t die on you like it always seems to. No one will be able to come between you and your laptop until it’s 11:59 and the Turnitin receipt is sitting pretty in your inbox.