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How to write a paper
At this point in the semester, you’ve either written a paper already, have one due in the next two weeks, or have a take-home final. In any case, all three scenarios have something in common: writing a paper. Everybody hates writing papers — even those English majors that you meet, or some other weirdos who are like “I love writing papers!” So how do you actually write a paper before the night it is due?
Tip 1: Start early
This seems like a no brainer but the reality is that early looks differently for most people so BE REASONABLE with your time. If you are taking 5 courses, working 12 hours per week, volunteering, and turning up on the weekends, it is highly unlikely that you will start every paper two weeks or a month in advance so defining early is up to you! Look at your schedule, and determine based on your other deadlines and commitments when is the earliest you can start your paper. Then pencil it in! It will keep you accountable.
Tip 2: Figure out your topic
The higher level classes you take will probably have general topics rather than distinct essay questions (which make it easier to formulate a thesis). You may know the general direction you want to go with your paper but not exactly what your arguments are, so you will need to do a little bit of research to find strong arguments and counter-arguments for your paper. If you already know your thesis, lucky you, you can jump to tip 3.
Tip 3: Don’t start with your introduction
This is the definition of writer’s block. Well no, but unless you’ve been inspired which is unlikely, you are probably forcing yourself to write the paper so all the words will not just flow to you.
Tip 4: Work in chunks
If your paper is over 5 pages, its best to break your paper in little chunks that you can tackle. Use headings on your first draft such as introduction, argument #1, argument #2, counter-arguments, further research, conclusion, etc. This will make it easier as you will have defined parts to work on, and it also allows you to clearly see if your paper is balanced, or if one argument is only a paragraph while another is 2 pages.
Tip 5: Schedule in time
Hold yourself accountable by scheduling time when you will work on different parts of your paper. Even if you don’t do it, you will feel even worse because you allotted two hours to research the pros and cons of internet dating, but spend two hours doing dating quizzes on Buzzfeed.
Tip 6: Start with what you know
Confident about argument #3? Start there! It is better to have two good pages than zero when the paper is due the next day. As you start to write, hopefully your ideas will flow to you.
Tip 7: Just write
If all this means nothing to you which I can understand, just write! It can’t hurt. Even if you don’t know what to write about, there is no big difference between writing 2 pages of nonsense or nothing at all.
Tip 8: Talk to yourself
Sometimes the most helpful thing is to talk to yourself out loud about what you’re writing and your positions. Once you verbalize your ideas, you may realize they’re gold or far from it.
Tip 9: Use pen and paper
Putting pen to paper can sometimes help you link ideas, and slow down the thinking process which helps you evaluate your ideas. If all this fails, diamonds are made under pressure.
Veniecia is a third year Political Science student who spends way too much time laughing at memes, and funny videos on Instagram. She is a Program and Event Assistant at the Students’ Union.