Term papers are a struggle. The most daunting task in any given class is the final term paper.
Term papers mean eight to twelve pages of research, quotes, facts and a slew of other things.
Luckily for me, writing comes easy, but some static research topics stifle my creative genius. Some of my favorite research papers have been about Odysseus, McBeth, police brutality, the housing crisis in Baltimore and the lack of female representation in CEO roles of Fortune 500 companies.
We’ve all come across a term paper topic we despised. Even worse is when you’ve written a few pages and proofread it and you think to yourself, “I’ve pooped out better stuff than this.” My least favorite was a paper about the lack of medical coverage in McAllen, TX. The only source we could use was this long, detailed, medical journal dissertation about the city.
There are papers we’ve wanted to shred, rip apart, ball up, incinerate, and do all sorts of unspeakable, pernicious things to. So to prevent the tiring battle between term papers and my fury, I come up with preventative measures.
As soon as we go over the syllabus during the first day of class I plan my attack. I figure out which topic I’ll choose and look at the calendar to figure out when I should start writing. It’s easier to write a 12-page paper over the course of a few weeks than it is to cram it all into the week it’s due.
Even with this profound insight, I still fell short two summers ago. I enrolled in an online summer history class. I know, what a great way to spend the summer. I thought it would be easy. We all take countless years of history from elementary through college and most American historical events are common knowledge.
This one focused on the American Revolutionary War. I thought about The Boston Tea Party, Stamp Act and Shay’s Rebellion. Easy, right? How many times have we learned about this stuff? I thought it’d be an easy A.
Then, a week before the summer session started the professor emailed us. It said that this wasn’t going to be a breezy summer class, we’re truncating a full semester… the usual spiel about summer courses. Then he outlined the workload and in so many words told us having a life, job, family or hobby will impede you in this course. If any of that was going on while we were enrolled, our best hope was a C.
I scoffed at the email and accepted his challenge. I was working full-time at that time and I planned a trip to New York City the weekend after summer classes started. Spoiler alert: He was right.
Our first paper was due Sunday night, which happened to be the day I would return from NYC. I knew it’d be a pain to do the required work and a paper while I enjoyed a much-needed vacation. So, I tried to start on the paper the second day of the summer session.
We had to use the school’s history archives to find the answers to the paper’s prompts. I had used several archives like Google Scholar and LexisNexis, and there had never been an issue with me finding the information I needed. But this archive didn’t work well with his questions.
I read through a plethora of Revolutionary War-era newspapers and articles. I couldn’t find an answer to anything. So I sent him an email for assistance. He sent a mass email out; other students must’ve had the same trouble as me. The email read like a riddle. Instead of telling us how to research he just offered a small, unhelpful hint.
I tried again to look for information and found a few things. When I looked up at the clock it hit 1 a.m. I inhaled deeply and exhaled a long sigh. What am I going to do? I was leaving early that morning.
This left me with no other choice but to continue working en route to my destination. The trees flowed, the air held a nice current and it was warm like a gentle embrace outside. Twenty minutes into departure I fell asleep.
Clearly, I was deprived of sleep the night before because of my research.
My plan to work fell short.
While in New York I did do the other daily work for the class but there was no time for me to research and type a six-page paper.
The trip was fun, but it ended with me stressed out about the looming deadline. I emailed my professor and informed him I needed a due date extension. He told me I had until noon the following day, but he’d still take points off for being late. I understood.
Thankfully, I was off the day following from my trip. I woke up at 7 a.m. and began researching and notetaking every morsel of information I could find. The pieces I couldn’t I decided I would check for again after I wrote my paper. I outlined my paper and began typing like a court stenographer.
Time flew, my forehead dripped with sweat, ever so often I’d get up to prevent carpal tunnel and wipe my glossy brow. Done! With 30 minutes left, I could either proofread or do more research on those final few questions.
I chose to proofread. I would rather miss a few insignificant points than to sound like an idiot with poor grammar on my paper, especially since it was late. I read and edited as quickly as I could with two minutes to spare. I stopped and turned it in.
Mission accomplished. If you’re wondering how it turned out, I got a C. Those insignificant points hit hard and turning it in late knocked me down from a B. I’m still proud of myself for knocking that paper out.