Wednesday, January 06, 2010

How to Write a Paper

Start with the research. Search the library for a book that deals with your topic, find said book in the lower stacks and then pull all of the surrounding books off the shelf. Put said book on top of your pile and climb the stairs with your pile stacked from palms to chin, arms straight. Spend three hours writing your bibliography. Use all of the books in your stack. Open your original book to its bibliography and copy any titles you may have missed that you think will impress the teacher. If needed, do a quick scan of the library for those books. Check your facebook and your email. Change facebook status. Tim Elliott is a blank slate. Update twitter. Wonder if your status was too vague. Facebook chat with a friend about how boring and frustrating homework is. Use the restroom. Return and look out the library window for about five minutes. Isn’t it beautiful outside? Actually, it’s January. But still, that wind is breathtaking. Glance at the clock, oh man, its lunch time. Ponder whether you can afford to eat and still finish the assignment on time. You probably can, but you are working a double tomorrow, so maybe not. Decide that you should get a good start on the assignment before eating. Flip through a few of your books until you realize you have no idea what to do next. Write down as many questions about the subject as you can think of. Flip through the books again. Write down a few more questions. Check facebook. Eat lunch. Buy coffee. Return to your work. Write an introduction paragraph. Quote something from one of the books. Delete your introduction paragraph. Keep the quote. Stare at your screen. Google the word “thesis”. Google the phrase “working thesis”. Write your working thesis, never reword it. Expand the thesis into an introduction paragraph. Check your facebook. Return to your work by drumming along to the Pandora playlist you’ve been listening to. It’s so beautiful outside, all windy and cold. Stare at the bald man with the sweet goatee walking down the sidewalk. Is that Tony the Beat Poet? Probably not. Read an entire chapter from one of your books. Oh shoot, its getting so late. Figure out how much more work needs to be done. Count the hours till the due date and the minimum amount of pages the paper must be. Realize that if you write a page an hour you just might get the assignment in on time. Get down to business. Pound the keyboard with fingertips as forceful as fists. Use a lot of quotes. Get stuck and stare at the screen. Check your facebook. Chat with friend about how hard this paper is. Get back to work by reading what you’ve written up to this point. Fix all typos. Cut and paste for better structure and flow. Scan your list of questions. Write a page. Check facebook. Go to espn.com. Examine trade details between Mariners and Red Sox. Read three articles. Stare out the window. Holy crap, its getting dark. How many pages do you have? Search books for a strong, long quote. Analyze quote for a page. Check facebook. Update twitter. Hum along to Pandora. Was that too loud? Look around the room. No one is looking, you’re probably good. Use the restroom. Write a couple more pages. Count your total lnumber of pages. It’s getting down to the wire now. Ponder your grade. What’s the worse you can do? This paper is at least a D. How can you get a C? Is a B possible? Delete part of your long block quote. Summarize the part you deleted and the main argument that author is making. Analyze main argument. Find something from another book that contradicts it. Summarize contradiction. Wonder if you are citing properly. Use a quote from contradiction to get another page worth of analysis. You are so bad at writing papers. Wish there was some trick to this whole paper writing thing. Write until the library is about to close. Check out a couple of books. Take work home, complain to your roomates about the amount of work you are doing. Eat dinner. Watch part of the Blazer game. Check your facebook. Write until three or four in the morning. Wake up at six. Take a shower and make coffee. Eat cereal. Write until you are finished. Compare conclusion with introduction. Check for typos. Save to jump drive. Walk to computer lab. Print paper. Turn in. Work a double. Drive home while keeping your eyes open. Fall asleep on top of your bed’s blankets while still wearing your work clothes. Forget to return the books you've checked out for five weeks.

3 comments:

Ryan said...

Sounds right... my only difference is that I used to set a time limit around 3AM and when I got to that point I simply wrote a concluding paragraph, hit save, and then print. I had a "never-pull-an-all-nighter" rule.

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MBMoshe said...

I found this piece compelling. It brought me back to the college library when floppy floppies still flopped in computer drives. You describe a somewhat different way of writing a paper than I remember in the late 80s. However the jist is the same.