I have a love/hate relationship with research papers. I love writing them, but I hate being on a deadline. Here are some of the tips I’ve found handy while writing papers for school.
- Make a list
- If you have multiple papers due, as it always seems to happen, make a list. I put the items in order of their due date or grade importance. As a procrastinator, I found this helped. It’s also positive to see things being crossed off. It gives you a feeling of accomplishment.
- Become best friends with your style guide.
- As an English major, I was very familiar with the MLA style guide. In fact, my favorite book for school was my “MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.” I used it so often that I named it! Even though most schools put it on the “recommended” list, I urge you to buy it. You won’t regret it!
- NEVER use Microsoft Word’s Bibliography tool.
- I’ve heard teachers mention this a lot, and I’ve seen people have points taken off because their citations were incorrect because they relied on Microsoft Word’s citation tool. This is another reason to cling to your MLA Handbook.
- Allow yourself breaks.
- Take a break to read a book, or to watch a movie. Writing a paper is stressful enough without you getting burnt-out. Take an hour or so to do something you enjoy, then go back to your paper. Often, you’ll have new ideas as a result of letting your mind rest.
- Know your writing style.
- Some people are writers who double and triple edit with an outline, while others are stream-of-consciousness writers. Personally, I am the latter, but that style of writing isn’t for everyone. Knowing your writing style helps you plan out your paper easier. I never use an outline, but some people need it.
- Don’t forget to eat and sleep!
- Sometimes you get so engrossed in writing that you forget to eat, or you pull an all-nighter to get that paper done last-minute. While I completely understand the need to stay up all night to finish the paper, it’s not healthy, especially if you’re working on one paper after another. It also affects your writing when you can’t concentrate because you’re too hungry or tired. Take that break for lunch, take a nap. Your paper will be all the better for it.
- Never plagiarize, even if your paper is going to be late.
- I know a lot of teachers drum the plagiarism fact into your head, but it’s really important. Most teachers I knew would gladly have given you an extension rather than have you plagiarize just to finish the paper on time. Even if they take points off, it’s better than the alternative. If you plagiarize, at the very least you’ll get a 0 on the paper. At the worst, you could be expelled. Take the ten points off, trust me.
- Try and have fun.
- I know that papers can be stressful, but you should try to have fun. Try to make the paper about something of which you are very passionate. Argue something that you can turn into something fun. Sometimes teachers will allow you to write something different, as long as it’s relevant to the class. For example, my teacher allowed me to write about “Pride and Prejudice,” even though we read a different Austen work in class.
- Don’t hesitate to talk with your teacher.
- They want you to succeed as much as you do. If you’re having a problem, tell them. If you can’t get the paper in on time, tell them. If you need reference materials, ask them. I’ve never met a teacher who wasn’t willing to help.
Well, I hope this helps some of you with your papers! I hope that you have a good school year and good luck on your papers!