Writing A Paper As Told By Michael Scott

It’s that time of year, and the due date on a super important paper is getting closer and closer. It hasn’t been mentioned since syllabus day, so naturally, you’ve forgotten all about it. Until your professor says at the end of class that she looks forward to reading your papers that are due tonight at midnight. Like always, this paper came out of nowhere.

You hit the library and sit down with your laptop and your syllabus, ready to go. You’ve got this, writing papers isn’t that bad. It should be easy, you’ve done pretty well keeping up in class. You’ve done the homework, you took pretty good notes. Then you see that it’s a 5 page minimum research paper on a special topic researched outside of class. Uh oh.

Don’t panic, you tell yourself. It could be worse. It could be worse. It could be 10 pages. It could've been due last night. You’ve caught it just in time, you have plenty of time to get some ideas cranked out. But as fate would have it, your mind is blank and you have no ideas. You have no clue how to even start the paper. You suddenly feel the panic creeping up and ask yourself how badly you want an education. You text your friend in the class and casually ask how the paper’s going, and of course, they finished it a week ago. 

It’s too late to get someone to help you, everyone’s busy and it’s due in 8 hours. You take a deep breath, look through the options for your topic, and, let’s be real, you choose what sounds easiest. Except none of them sound easy, but you at least kinda know what one of them is. So you choose that and immediately see what Google has to offer. 

After choosing your topic, you read up on it and get a general understanding of it. Next, you decide how you’re gonna write the dang thing. The best thing to do when writing a paper you’re not prepared to write is to have an outline. Make sure you know where you’re going with your point. Professors can definitely tell when you have no clue what you’re talking about, so be mindful. 

You get going with your opening paragraph and you feel pretty proud of yourself. This isn’t so bad, you think to yourself. You addressed the points you’re about to make, and it sounds pretty smart. You can do this, it’ll be a breeze. Then you realize that you actually have to expand on those points and defend them. Suddenly you’re not sounding as smart, so you turn to more sources to fill out some more space on the page. Parenthetical citations really help with the word count too, so adding more scholarly sources not only makes you look like you really researched your topic, but it also fills up your paper. Look at you go, you’re so smart.

Then, naturally, you hit your stride. You’re unstoppable. Your paper not only sounds good, but you actually feel like you know what you’re talking about. You’re expressing your own thoughts and supporting them with researched evidence, you’re citing super impressive sounding sources, you’re on a roll. Nothing can stop you now, you are a super genius and you’re writing the best paper of all time. Maybe your professor will keep it, it’s that good. It’s like, publishable good.

And while you’re caught up praising yourself for your out-of-this-world writing genius skills, googling magazines or newspapers or professional journals that’ll publish your paper as a scholarly article, the stride turns into a jog, and the jog turns into a walk, and 2 and a half pages in, you’re stuck. Gone are the brilliant phrasings in your brain, no more can you come up with the perfect comparison between your own thoughts and one of your cited sources. You’re stuck. 

You have two options: you could just take a little break and hope you can get back in the groove after some time spent scrolling through Facebook, or you can power through and finish the paper with no distractions. You then remember that earlier your roommate sent you a YouTube link on Facebook with the caption “this is totally us,” and obviously you have to know what she’s talking about that’s so “us” she felt the need to send it to you. After all, you have to watch it eventually, and it’s only a few minutes long anyway. Plus the thumbnail for the video has a puppy. What’s a 5-minute YouTube break? 

Then 5 minutes turns to 20 minutes, and you realize you’re watching a stream of cat videos. That’s when you know it’s time to snap out of it and get back to work, even though they’re so cute. So you force yourself to start writing again, stop yourself from googling “cat adoption,” and though it’s not quite a stride, you slowly start making some progress and it’s not that bad. It’s not up to par with your MacArthur Genius Grant-worthy first 2 pages, but it’s pretty okay. It’ll get you a B, maybe. Hours have gone by, but no tears have been shed. You’re on your last paragraph, almost ready to email it to your professor, go home, and go to sleep. As you type your last words, you feel like you’re crossing the finish line in Mario Kart in first place. Until you remember that you have to do a works cited page and number your pages and add a header. All the little things you totally forgot about. Suddenly you don’t feel like you’re crossing the finish line. You feel like you slipped on your own banana and now you’re in dead last. 

But you power through like the smarty pants you are, email in your work of genius, and leave the library feeling great. You’ve turned in your paper as if you didn’t wait until the last minute and hope that it gets you a letter of recommendation from your professor someday. 

 

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