How to Write a Paper the English Major Way

Whether you’re an arts major or not, you will have to write a paper sometime this semester. Take it seriously, papers can boost your mark or kill it.

You will need:

  • Sweatpants (My lulus have gotten me through so many papers :’)
  • Bottled Water (Dehydration is a buzzkill)
  • Vitamins (Nothing hurts your academic game like being stuck in bed with the flu) 
  • Caffeine (but not too much– energy drinks or too much coffee can give you heart palpitations, anxiety, keep you from sleeping, and affect your concentration. Not to mention the shakes are terrible.) 
  • FOOD. This is extremely important. You need to feed your brain. Have a variety of snacks on hand, and include some comfort foods for your most desperate moments.
  • A book to read on breaks to take your mind off of the material you’re writing about. 
  • Advil/ Aspirin to combat headaches brought on by close-reading
  • Pepto to combat stress-induced stomach aches
  • LOTS of willpower

 

  1. Put on some comfortable clothes. If this means going braless, so be it. Wear your glasses, not your contacts, and take off all your makeup to avoid smudging it all over your face when you weep with frustration. Tie up your hair if it’s long. Wear layers so as to obtain optimum comfort whilst writing your paper.
  2. Procure a large caffeinated beverage (proceed with caution)
  3. Go to an area that isn’t your dorm room or apartment. It helps to go somewhere where other people are also studying. I find it helpful to go to the Arts Lounge– it isn’t too quiet, too loud, and everyone there is writing a paper or reading a book, too! And there’s a coffee shop and bathrooms just down the hall.
  4. Use a “self control” app to block all social networking, netflix, online shopping sites, etc. (It’s a good idea to block Wikipedia and Sparknotes if you’re in danger of relying solely on these for references) Do this for the entire duration of time you’ve set aside to work on your paper.
  5. Put your phone on airplane mode.
  6. Always keep the OED open in a tab on your computer.
  7. Keep a handful of highlighters, different coloured pens, sticky notes, and scrap paper on hand. 
  8. Make sure that you have with you all of the important texts you will need to reference.
  9. Take periodic breaks (not TOO many, one 15 minute break every 30-45 minutes is standard)
    • to stretch
    • check your messages
    • go for a walk
    • read a “for fun” book
    • snack
    • chat with a friend
    • pee
  10.  Take a larger break when you’re about halfway (after 3-5 hours). Go home, nap, shower, work out. Refresh yourself and then get back to work with a fresh perspective
  11. Close-read EVERYTHING. Destroy your sources with highlighters and pens. Research anything that seems iffy or that you don’t quite understand. Make your own definitions for the key concepts of your paper, and make sure you have an arsenal of examples and details on hand.
  12. Your thesis is the most important part of you paper. Don’t forget it. Bold it in the paper itself, and write it on a sticky note and put it somewhere on your laptop 
  13. Outlines sound arbitrary and they suck. But they are SO important for organization and clarity. Get a blank piece of paper. Write your thesis at the top. Write your 3 paragraph points down, and remember MEAL (main point, example, analysis, link to thesis. 
  14. Constantly proofread. Check spelling as you go, and check for clarity whenever you write a significant chunk of text.
  15. SLEEP. All-nighters ARE NOT, I repeat ARE NOT good for you OR your grades! This is PROVEN! In order to do your best on a term paper, you need at LEAST one night’s sleep to distance yourself from the material before you go back and do the final edits. Your grades, your health, and your mood will suffer if you make all-nighters (or even ‘until 4am-ers’) your “thing.”
  16. Stay positive. If you need to take a break and make a list of the reasons you’re an English major and the reasons this paper is important (beyond ‘I want a 3.5 GPA), you will instantly feel better.
  17. Turn off your music. TV and music might be okay for background noise for SOME assignments, but papers are important. For most english majors, they end up being the majority of your grade. If you MUST listen to music, listen to something without lyrics, and that is relaxing. Like Bach.

Good luck 🙂

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