Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Options Solutions Guest Student Blogger – First Paper? Start Now!

Ugh, papers. The word itself makes me wilt. But, it’s something every university student has to do at least once. And even if you don’t end up writing a paper during university, the organization and critical thinking required to write one are applicable skills to any future career.

Being that I’m in both arts and academia, I’ve had to write a myriad of different papers. Political Science papers have proven the most difficult, but there’s definitely a pattern to them. Once you’ve written three or four, you get the gist and spend far less time on them. Once you understand how to research, how to write an effective argument and how to cite properly, paper writing becomes almost second nature.

Start early! Seriously, I can’t stress this enough. Self-loathing all nighters are the worst. Research will take longer than you expect it to ninety percent of the time. Where your research takes you also forms your entire argument. You might start off researching articles about women in export processing zones and end up with a paper about hiring mechanisms in Mexican maquiladoras. And yes, that was an example for a paper I wrote a week ago. Ideally, starting your papers three weeks early will save you (and your professors) stress and earn you a higher grade. Profs can tell when you wrote a paper the night before, and they’ll be more inclined to knock you down a few marks for laziness. Plus, starting something early increases the likelihood that you will actually enjoy what you’re learning… and remember it.

Use your resources. Remember the blog about talking to your professors? Do it. They are paid to sit in their office hours and wait for you to talk to them. They will help you with almost anything. Also, your university likely has a writing centre where you can get your papers edited for free by dorks like me! Most of the time, half an hour of editing by an editor will bump your mark up at least one letter grade.

Your assigned texts for classes help as well. All it takes is ten minutes skim-reading a relevant chapter in your textbook and then looking up the articles that author cited. Always a good place to start. Use your friends, too. If you’re in the same class with a friend, track change each other’s work. I’d recommend editing your paper once, leaving it for a day, editing it again, another day and then editing it for the last time the night before it’s due. Fresh eyes make all the difference. Also, your university will likely conduct seminars on learning how to research. Sure, they’re boring, but they’re valuable. You won’t regret spending three hours on something you will use for the next four years.

The University of Toronto has a great website dedicated to helping students write specific kinds of assignments: http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/specific-types-of-writing. It was a recently used tab of mine in first year (along with “YouTube—BBC Talking Animals”).

Your mark will directly reflect how much work you’re willing to put in. Don’t expect to get an “A” if the paper requires ten sources and you use exactly ten. An “A” means “exceeds expectations”…so use eleven.

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