Remember that research paper? You read about it in the syllabus on the first day of class and marked the due date in your planner. All semester long, your Professor has been mentioning it – “This would be a great topic to explore in your final paper!”. But you’ve been busy with all the things you well-rounded Wesleyan students are busy with and haven’t had a whole lot of time to think about it.
Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s time to start thinking: those final paper deadlines are creeping closer. If your paper is due the last possible day (aka the last day of finals: Friday, May 18), you have exactly two weeks until your paper is due.
Two weeks. That’s plenty of time…provided you actually use the full two weeks. Don’t be the guy who starts writing his paper (25 pages, due Friday at 9 AM) after dinner on Thursday. You won’t be happy with yourself, trust me.
Just remember: two weeks isn’t actually a full two weeks. You likely have other assignments due during that time, other finals to take, friends to see, spring fling concerts/parties to attend, etc. Even if you’re one of the lucky few whose workload shakes out such that you have one research paper due in two weeks and nothing else to do but write and lounge around on Foss, you should plan ahead and schedule time to get your writing done.
Even though those deadlines may seem far away, do yourself a favor and take a few minutes today to sit down and work out a plan of attack.
1. Write down all of your deadlines on a calendar. Make yourself stare at them, no matter how anxiety-producing it is to see them all at once.
2. Identify which assignments/tests you want to devote the most time to. Remember: the longest paper you have to write won’t necessarily take this title. You might have a shorter assignment in a class that’s outside your major (and therefore, your comfort zone) that you’re more concerned about. Write down your assignments again, this time in a list starting with the one that will require the most time to the one that will require the least.
3. Do NOT save the “big stuff” for last. Yes, the assignment you identified as requiring the most time might also be the most daunting, and thus the one you’d rather put off doing, but resist this urge.
4. Take that big, time-consuming assignment and break it down into chunks. Say that the assignment you’re most worried about is, in fact, a research paper. What steps do you need to take to complete it? Finish up the research, meet with your Professor again to ask a few questions, write the paper (further broken down: write each of the four main sections, plus the intro/conclusion), take your paper to the Writing Workshop, copy-edit, format the bibliography, etc.
5. Schedule each step in the process so that you make yourself do something each day. So, you want to get your paper to the Workshop before you turn it in? That means you’ll have to be finished writing by Monday, May 14. Your paper is essentially five sections (if you count the intro/conclusion as a single section), so pencil in five separate “deadlines” for each section. So, for instance, you could aim to finish the first section by Monday the 7th, the second by the 8th, the third by the 9, the fourth by the 11th, and the fifth by the 12th. That gives you about a week to finish up your research and meet with your Professor, plus you’ll have a full draft on the 14th with a whole four days left to edit before it’s due!
6. Schedule in time for fun, too. Can’t imagine working on spring fling? Then don’t! Just make sure you adjust your plan accordingly.
7. Stick to the plan if possible, but don’t freak out if you get off track. Things happen. You’re only in college once; if all your friends are headed to Miller’s Pond but you won’t go with them because you said you would be at page 6 but you’re only at page 5, you’re probably missing out. One page can wait until tomorrow. The whole point of scheduling things so that you finish days in advance is that you have a cushion in case, you know, life happens.