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The Stages of Writing a Paper as Told by a Procrastinator

If you’re in university, you know the struggles of writing a paper, and especially when you’ve put it off to the night before (tsk tsk). As a senior women’s and gender studies student, my entire university career has revolved around writing term papers, research papers, literature reviews, critical reviews, and take-home exam papers. Papers, papers, and more papers. Needless to say, I think I’ve mastered the art of writing papers AND procrastinating without producing work that is so obviously written last minute. So, here are 10 stages to successfully writing a paper:

Stage 1: You receive the assignment and you immediately jot down the due date in your planner.

That way, you can stare at that due date for a good month, then panic for a week before it is due, and finally, sit down to write it the night before. We've all been there and done that. But hey, at least we took the initiative to write down the due date, right?


Stage 2: You sit down to write the paper a week before the due date.

You know you’ve done this. You somehow talk yourself into starting your assignments early because you’ve regretted every all-nighter you’ve ever pulled. So, you get your coffee, turn off all other distractions, and whip out the assignment details. Then, you open Microsoft word and stare at it for 15 minutes because you have writer’s block. Finally, you write a title page, save the document to your desktop and take a nap.


Stage 3: Reassuring yourself that you’re a professional at successfully procrastinating.

Usually, a few days before the paper is due, your professor tells you this isn’t a paper you can write the night before, so you take them up on the challenge. You start researching because a part of you believes your professor and the other part, the professional procrastinator in you, believes in your ability to ace this because you’ve reassured yourself that you ‘work best under pressure’.


Stage 4: Attending to other tasks like cleaning.

After all the research is done, including reading other papers on the topic, you finally come up with a thesis statement and jot the ideas for your body paragraphs in point form. At this point, it is probably two-days before the due date and you’re so proud of yourself for coming up with a brilliant thesis statement. So you decide it’s time to clean out your desk drawer, you haven’t done that in a while...


Stage 5: The Facebook statuses start pouring in.

The night before the paper is due, your friends have multiple Facebook statuses about how stressed out they are, so you become anxious and stressed too. After all, you only have a title page and a scrap piece of paper with point form ideas. You panic.


Stage 6: You have so little time and so much to write.

You’ve finally opened Microsoft Word and you start typing an introduction. Well not exactly, how do you start the intro? You didn’t think this through. Your professor has said in the past that the first sentence is the most important. It can make or break your paper. Stress levels are rising. So, you start typing like a maniac and you tell yourself you will type all your ideas and proofread them later. It is 8:00 PM at this point, and you’re already tired because you’ve had a long day of classes.​


Stage 7: The coffee run.

So you get up and make yourself a coffee. YUM! Coffee. You’re wide awake and ready to ace this paper. Then you remember your professor wants you to cite at least 3 readings from your course textbook.​


Stage 8: The scholarly sources.

You finally manage to get 3-4 quotes from each assigned reading and quite frankly, you don’t care if it flows with your paper or not. You’ve satisfied the requirement. THREE READINGS​


Stage 9: The conclusion..

You’ve finished the paper, now you’re scrambling to make a conclusion because you’re overtired and you can’t see straight anymore. You start scrolling through your essay and rewording sentences from the body paragraphs. After all, the conclusion is supposed to be a summary. So you summarize.​

Stage 10: You tell yourself you’ll never procrastinate again...

You’re done. You close all 36 tabs on Safari. Save your work, print, and hit the sheets. You promise yourself you are never going to do this again.. but knowing deep down that you most likely and probably WILL.​


This is a reality that many of us know too well. In light of final exams coming up, don’t procrastinate. Try to start studying and writing those final reports and essays ahead of time. You’ll thank us later.

Dhouha is a fourth-year student at the University of Windsor majoring in Women's and Gender Studies with a minor in History. Dhouha is a dual citizen of Tunisia and Canada, currently living in Windsor, Ontario. She is a writer & editor for HerCampus at UWindsor. Dhouha describes herself as a free-spirited social butterfly who is chasing every little thing her heart desires. In the future, she wishes to pursue an MA and a PhD. in Gender Studies.
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