Thursday, February 18, 2010
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?