Thursday, February 18, 2010

Painless Paper

How college students usually do a paper:

1. You are assigned a paper, say, three weeks in advance. This seems like a ton of time. No need to worry.

2. Forget about the paper.

3. Wait until one week before the paper is due to remember the paper.

4. Start "thinking" about paper. This usually means saying "yup, Civil War" to yourself in the shower.

5. Four days before it's due: start a Word document with the header all set up in MLA format. Look at it with satisfaction.

6. Go on Facebook and continue life as normal.

7. Two days before it's due: sit down and decide to write the paper.

8. Write the first sentence. This is the hardest part.

9. Go on Facebook.

10. Check e-mail.

11. Read blogs.

12. Check Twitter.

13. Go on Facebook.

14. Write another sentence.

15. Repeat steps 9 through 14 until paper is done. Paper will be finished once you've pulled an all-nighter and severely bruised your face from slamming your head against the desk in frustration.

This is how I do a paper, but it really isn't the way I should do it. When I'm actually on my game and being responsible, I do have a few tricks that always seem to help me get through everything with a lot less stress and missed sleep. A lot of you are college students or grad students, so I figured some of this may be of help.

Forget the Computer

Well, obviously not forever. I find that when I can't think of what to write, stepping away from the computer is my best bet for getting the creative juices flowing again-- and don't mean just so I don't look at my Facebook for the 80th time. I usually find that switching to paper and pen for a bit is just the change I need to get my brain working. Next time you feel stumped, take out your notebook and jot down notes or write an outline. Works like a charm.

Do the Math

If you have a 10 page paper due, you may feel super-stressed and a little bit daunted. But let's say you have 3 weeks to complete it in. If you write about a half a page every day in that time, you'll be done with a bit of time to spare. And what's a half a page double-spaced? 125 words? In Internet 2.0-ese, that's translates to making about five tweets about not wanting to do your paper.

Google-- But Stay on Topic

There's a lot of cool information out there on the internet about whatever you're trying to sound very academic about. If you're totally bored with it, why not try reading more about it? You may be surprised to find a lot of interesting facts that totally rejuvenate your interest in your topic-- may even encounter a whole new way to approach your argument. Try not to get too far off track, though.

When You're Tired, SLEEP!

This sounds obvious and sort've asinine, I know. Why wouldn't you sleep when you're tired? If you have to ask, you've probably never been a college student with a deadline fast approaching. A lot of students pull all-nighters and otherwise work way past their mental and physical limits. When you're very tired, you're not going to get much good work done. If you manage your time reasonably, you'll be able to nap and go to bed whenever necessary-- and that's going to help you a lot more than drinking espresso in the library at 3 AM.

What are your tricks for doing papers or projects?


Elaine said...

Ha! So true!

Don't forget to enter to win a tankini of your choice!

Krissy ♥ said...

Haha, this is totally what I used to do when I had to write papers in university. But the thing is, this method works for me so much better than careful planning. My best papers come from pulling all-nighters the night before they're due. :P The best paper I ever wrote in my entire life was written during the morning it was due: 24 pages in 8 hours. I got an A+. XD

Vanessa said...

Krissy: that is seriously impressive! I had a professor who said that he always works that way, too, and that he has a knack for putting things off and then banging out 50 pages like nothing.

Marie said...

I have always done this too, though during my undergrad there was no Facebook to check (!) so I did things like go to Walmart at 2am and make spinach dip. Now that I am in grad school I fully employ the Facebook procrastination method.

In my research methods class last semester, we had an entire semester to write one paper. Just imagine the procrastination possibilities! Unfortunately, the prof made us keep on top of it by assigning things like finding 5 new sources each week and summarizing them, or writing a draft of abstract. It's amazing how easy papers are to put together when you just have have to squish a bunch of assignments together.

Now I just need to continue such practices this semester...

Klik said...

Starting two whole days ahead of time, I'm impressed. I could never get up the motivation to work until 11 pm the night before. I also found that outlining with pen and paper could help break through writers' block - I've heard it's because using your right hand leads to greater activation of your left brain, the half responsible for organization and logic. Finally, if you are pulling an all-nighter constant infusions of caffeine and sugar via Hersheys kisses and a 2 -liter diet coke may seem like a good idea, but will feel horribly sick in the morning. Ask me how I know.

Rachael said...

I am so a last minute writer, I stress myself to the point of brilliance. I found that turning off the internet helped (if you can't connect to facebook, you can't waste time on it) and setting a timer helped me. I'd tell myself, "ok, self, you will work on this project for 30 minutes and then you can have a prize." And that prize would be a timer set for 10 minutes to have a cookie, giggle with my roommate, or check facebook. For 10 minutes. Or 5. And then it was back to work for another 30 minutes.

Bec said...

ha ha this is definitely how I operate but I can't claim I work best this way I'm just unorganised.

Right now I'm trying to study mth which involves every half hour or so opening the page, reading going woah that's confusing and then flicking back to facebook.

Jenny said...

OMG. That is exactly how I do a 'paper'/essay! ;o


Rachel Elizabeth said...

I am notorious. In fact I should be doing some paper right now.

Vanessa said...

Geez, I feel tons better about my procrastination methods knowing all of you do the same :-P


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