Navigating the Stress of Writing Papers

Paper due next week? Tomorrow? This afternoon? Here are some of our tried and true tips to tackling your term papers and easing the stress of writing them!

1. Write down your ideas the moment you think of them.

Write them down the moment you think of them, otherwise, you will forget them. Write them anywhere! In a text message, an email, blog post, on your homework, or even send yourself a voice mail. They don’t even have to make any sense – just write them down otherwise, if you try to recall your ideas later, they may not make as much sense as they did when you actually thought of them.



2. If you’re worried about word counts, set small goals for yourself.

I find that thinking about writing a 1500 word paper sounds like an awful lot of words. Don’t think about it this way! Instead, think about writing 100 words. Seems pretty feasible right? So, 100 words. Then write another 100 words. And another 100 words. Maybe increase it to 200 words. Pretty soon, you’ll be half way through your paper and it won’t even feel like it. If you set smaller goals for yourself you will eventually reach that larger goal of 1500 words. Don’t think about writing 1500 words starting from zero; think about writing 100 words starting from zero.


3. Write your outline after you’ve figured out your thesis.

Right after you’ve figured out your thesis, write out what you’re thinking. It sounds like a bit of a crazy idea, but hear me out. This can most likely be turned into an outline for your paper because once you have your thesis, your mind will start thinking of the different ways you can support your thesis. I usually write this out point form in a word document shortly after I’ve written my thesis, but do whatever works best for you!

4. If you can’t find a quotation or page reference to support your argument, highlight it and come back to it.

You know it exists – somewhere in your pile of notes and scholarly articles. But, you can’t find it at the moment. Don’t fret over trying to find that reference, just highlight the sentence or paragraph, and revisit it once you’ve finished writing your paper. I find that spending copious amounts of time looking for a page number or a quotation distract from my paper writing and thought process – and as a result, your paper suffers from your attention being diverted away from writing a great argument. It will also take you longer to finish your paper if you spend time looking for the reference mid-writing than it will after you finish writing.

5. Format your endnotes and citations AFTER you write the paper. 

As is the case with #4, spending lots of time on paper formatting dampens the effectiveness and strength of your argument. Instead, try writing your reference as an endnote (like this: (Lee 2)) and properly formatting it according to your professor’s specifications after. The effect of this tip is two-fold: the first being that this allows you to write in a steady flow without disruption. The second is that by doing this, you are forcing yourself to re-read and in essence, proofread your paper. You won’t be able to find your endnotes and properly format them unless you read your paper through, and doing this allows you to edit (“hey! I didn’t know I had a typo there”) and change things around (“well that paragraph didn’t make any sense”).
Hope these were helpful to your paper writing! The Point wishes you the best of luck with your term papers!

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