Let's face it: we've all been there. It's 9 p.m. on a Sunday night, and you have a 15-page research paper due tomorrow that you have barely started. You've had a month to do it, but somehow, all you've managed is to check out a few books from the library and jot down a working thesis. You've checked Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, FMyLife, PerezHilton, and CollegeHumor (obviously) each about a million times, and now you're finally left staring at a blank Microsoft Word document, a cold dread settling into your stomach. So what now? Take it from a veteran procrastinator: all hope is not lost. Skip the panic attack, and follow these simple rules to last-minute paper-writing success.
1. Just start. Write your name and the date in the upper right hand corner. Give the thing a title. Just the act of typing will help calm you down and get those academic juices flowing.
2. Find quotes first. I know, I know, this goes against everything you've ever been taught about paper writing. Teachers say you should formulate your argument first, and then find quotes to support your ideas. And you should " when you are a good student and have weeks to put your argument together. But when it's crunch time, you need to work with what you've got. Look for main themes. The argument will come from there. (Note: use as many different sources as possible. This will make your professor think you did lots of research, and it will help with Step 6.)
3. Type quotes. Once you've found a bunch of quotes that seem to express key points, type them all up. Put them in quotation marks, and note the source and page number. Ideally, you should have about half to two-thirds of the page length requirement taken care of by the time you finish this step! Don't you feel better already?
4. Organize quotes into an outline. By now, you should have a good sense of the material from finding all those quotes. (It's almost like actually doing the research.) Hopefully, you now feel confident that you can organize them into a few main subtopics. Slap a thesis at the top, write three topic sentences, and paste the relevant quotes as needed.
5. Fill in the blanks. Your paper is almost done! Just write a few sentences explaining each quote to beef up your main paragraphs, craft some nice transitions, and voila: You're finished! Still haven't quite met the length requirement? Never fear
6. Add footnotes. Footnotes are God's gift to procrastinating college students trying to meet minimum length requirements. If you followed my advice in Step 2, you have lots of sources, and lots of quotes, so that means: lots of footnotes! The more the better.
7. Make your sentences wordier. In general, you should aim for concise, snappy prose-but desperate times call for desperate measures. In the event that a college student may find that he or she happens to be in a situation wherein he or she lacks sufficient amounts of time to complete requisite amounts of research that would otherwise be necessary for fulfilling the stipulated page length for an assigned paper, that student may find it judicious and useful to utilize numerous large and unnecessary words and long, detailed sentences to stretch even the most simple thoughts into 5-6 lines of unabashedly wordy and extraneous drivel. (See what I did just there? Eh?) And if you still haven't met the requirement
8. Adjust margins, font size, etc. You know the drill. This, however, should always be a last resort, as most professors can spot these tricks.
9. Read the finished product out loud. Mistakes are easier to catch that way-and in a late-night (or early morning) Red Bull-laden stupor, my guess is you may have made a few mistakes.
10. Get some sleep! With any luck, you've followed these tips, finished your paper, and didn't even have to pull an all-nighter! Be sure to print a copy, and read it over again in the morning to catch last-minute errors.