Monday, March 12, 2012

How to Slingshot Goliath

We all have had, or currently have, that huge paper looming over our heads, like some menacing giant waiting to grind our bones for bread (not being morbid, just a Shrek reference.) Chances are, because of how long it is, it is important. It may be for a lab, class, thesis, capstone, writing section, or whatever else. All you know is that your life currently depends on it, and you have mulled over it for weeks (or hours, if you’re a procrastinator, like me) and it still doesn’t seem to get any better. You’ve spell-checked it. You’ve read it hundreds of times. However, you’re still nervous about turning it in. Is it perfect? Is there anything you could have missed? Is it ready?

First of all: chill out. This paper is not the end of your life, I promise. Therefore, I, the almighty Writing Center blogger, shall give you advice to help you on your quest. My number one piece of advice: don’t wait until the last minute. This is especially vital in the future, when you begin writing the really important papers: dissertations, research articles, etc. You want to make sure you schedule time to work on your paper. I’ve found that if you set a block of time to do something in your schedule, you’re more likely to do it than if you just leave you and your free time to your own devices. As a side note for that, make sure that you go somewhere to work on the paper, somewhere you know you’ll work. It could be a computer lab or library, but you want to make sure you’re in an environment where you won’t be used to, and therefore tempted, to goof off. Just make yourself work for however much time you allotted yourself – an hour, two, whatever – and stop after that. Remember, you don’t have to finish in one day. If you start early enough, you can space it out and keep yourself sane.

Advice number two: retreat and re-read. This one is fairly simple, but many people will never do it. When you’re finished your paper, just stop there. You… Stop! Put the paper down. Forget about it. Put it in your binder or drawer, or close the WORD document. Just leave it be and forget about it. Forget it for a few days. Don’t you even dare look at it! Then, after a few days, pick it up again. The trick is to read it with fresh eyes and a new perspective. You want to seem like a stranger reading your paper. You’re much more likely to find mistakes when you aren’t used to seeing them over and over again.

It’s also a good idea to have someone else look over the paper. Everyone thinks differently, so a different mind reading your paper might result in new and different ideas or views on the subject. Never snub someone else’s ideas on your paper; they could be the difference between you standing out and being a plain jane.

Remember: if you’re ever unsure about the direction you’re going in and if it’s what your professor wants, never be afraid to ask! Professors are not your enemy; they are here to help you. If you ask them to help, they will.

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