How to write a paper


Sometimes you want to do a good job on a paper because it’s for your favorite professor, and it’s the first paper of the semester. So, when you get the prompt for the first essay, you

STEP 1: Have a small panic attack. It’s not a long paper, and the prompt is straightforward. There is nothing here that would logically induce such a response. But since you already feel the pressure, you just have a small breakdown. Then you

STEP 2: Get over it. And you

STEP 3: Start re-reading the dense animal rights and utilitarianism articles needed to write the paper adequately. You underline things and make small guttural noises of agreement and disapproval in the back of your throat when appropriate. And you write things in the margins like buzzwords and just because it’s absurd doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about it. Then you

STEP 4: Go over all your notes from the articles and start to formulate a thesis. Write it in plain English, nothing fancy. Write it in a way that when you go back later to start actually writing the body of the paper, you’ll see things that make sense. Then you

STEP 5: Write out some sentences that are jam-packed with content. It doesn’t matter if they’re run-ons or if the ideas in the sentences need unpacking. As long as you can unpack them later, feel free to leave the sentence incoherent and jumbly.

STEP 6: Eat a calzone and take a little break. Actually, do that a few times throughout the process. Don’t do it all in one sitting. Drink some water, call your sister, and then

STEP 7: Start typing out the ideas from your notes, starting with your thesis (that will change later when we revise… don’t worry, it’s supposed to). Follow that up by unpacking all those ideas you jumbled out on the paper. Keep going until you get it all out. Then

STEP 8: Formulate a conclusion based on everything you’ve just written. Go back and read through your brilliant material  to get an idea of what the heck you just wrote about. Believe me, it’s harder than you think to remember it all once you’ve spewed it out in typing mode. Conclude, then

STEP 9: Revisit your thesis. Hello, old friend. We missed you while we were drawing conclusions down there. Oh boy, we didn’t actually talk about this in our essay. Did we need to? Oh, we didn’t? Well, what did we actually talk about? Oh. Let’s put that in our thesis. Once your thesis is actually about what your paper is about, then

STEP 10: Have a revision party! Invite the grammar rules and George Orwell’s rules for writing to the party. Visit every line and spread the cheer of making them clearer and more active. It’s your last hurrah before turning in this draft, so make it a good one.

And that, dear friends, is how papers come to be.

Homework babies.


Today, I have a nursery of screaming babies around me.  It’s not literal – I’d actually prefer that.  Nope, my figurative homework babies are here in the nursery of my to-do list.  Lab Report over there is a toddler, so he’s been following me around asking, “Why?  Why?  Why?  What’s that?  How’d you get that, huh?  Why?”

Then there’s a Bible paper over there that’s crying from neglect.  She’s been laying in her crib for a couple weeks now, waiting for me to acknowledge that she’s awake and hungry for some attention.

My Philosophy paper has, thankfully, finally settled down for a nap, but it’ll wake up on Monday and ask for more editing.

These are the moments when I’m thankful that I only have three children…. wait, I mean classes.  Classes, not children.  And I’m thankful that one of them asks me to go in-depth with the Bible.  I mean, really, it’s a blessing to be asked to write a paper about a Psalm of your choice.  It requires time and work, certainly, but it’ll yield good things when it’s done that I can directly apply to my life, right away.

Now, it’s high time that I helped Bible out of her crib and showed her a little loving.  Please excuse me.

Pep talks.


Having an excess of half and half isn’t really a bad thing at all.  It’s actually kind of nice, especially when blackberries go on sale for $.99 at Jewel, so you can eat fruit in half and half.  Then you mush up the fruit and drink the blackberry saturated creamy stuff.

Not a bad thing at all.

I’ve been trying to convince myself all day to work on my final paper for Bible.  It’s been a struggle.  So far, I’ve convinced myself to vacuum, empty the vacuum of all of its nasty stuff, do two loads on laundry, and write a letter.  I haven’t been able to make myself pick up this book that I need to finish or to write a paper based on its chapters.

I know I can do it.  I don’t doubt that.  Somehow, the drive to do it has been a little lacking today.  However, this is the absolute last thing that I need to do in my first semester of college, so I’m going to give myself a pep talk.

I’m sorry that you have to witness this.

Come on, Ashley.  It’s just a twelve page paper.  

I mean, if you divide it up based on topic, it’s pretty much just two six page papers.  And you’ve already written a whole paragraph!  You don’t have that much to do.  

Sure, that book is dry and repetitive, but it’s about the BIBLE.  You know it will come in handy later… like say, when you’re writing that paper!  

You don’t have any cleaning to do – you already did that.  

You don’t have any reason to spend any more time on Facebook or Twitter.  I’m pretty sure all of the people connected with you on there could recreate your entire life from the past few months, minus a few bad meals at ARA.  

You just need to sit your butt down in a chair somewhere, and finish the book.  Here, we’ll take it in steps.

Step 1: Finish the book.  Annotate it.  Mark it up, and get it done.

Step 2: Write the rest of the first half of your paper.  Just 5 and a half more pages.  You can do it.

Step 3: Research Ephesians 5:10-17.  Get some commentaries, a Bible dictionary, and a cup of coffee, and just do it.  You have no reason to shy away from this task.  HECK, the passage is about taking up the armor of God! Tackle that thing head on!

Thank you for being here.  On that note, I will obey my own pep talk.