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…For that essay!

Sofia Hashi | Fulcrum Staff

Photo by Sean Campbell

ESSAY WRITING: THOSE two words can make the most experienced fourth-year student shudder and run all the way back to their hometown. No matter how hard we pray otherwise, the words “essay” and “final paper” always seem to find their way onto our syllabuses. Regardless of the class for which these dreaded assignments are required, the thought of writing them induces panic and anxiety in even the most veteran of students. But never fear, there are strategies for coping with the stress of slapping together a well-articulated essay. And no, just in case you’re wondering, none of them are “drop the class.”

1. Read your syllabus

Remember the piece of paper your prof gave you way back in September? Pull out that crumpled thing from whatever dark place you’ve stuffed it, and smooth it out. Now read it. If you didn’t go to your first class, that’s okay. There’s almost always an online version of the syllabus, and chances are you can hunt it down. Carefully read the requirements for the paper. Margins, spacing, page numbers, citations, and more should be committed to your memory. Just kidding—write it down just in case you “lose” your syllabus again.

2. Go to the library

You know that building on campus called Morisset? It is also the library. Shocking, I know. The last time you visited the building might’ve been during your high school campus visit, but with finals and papers coming up, this is where you need to be. Bustle your butt on over and start your essay research there. Do your research—hopefully you won’t need a step-by-step guide on how to do research?—and get to work. Take out books if you need to; read journal articles; read peer-reviewed works; just make sure to go further than Wikipedia and Google. Trust me, your professor will know.

3. Start writing

As the saying goes, starting is the hardeset. After you’ve done a sufficient amount of research, turn on your laptop and get to typing. Get off Facebook and Twitter, and turn your cell phone off. Any distractions at this stage might be enough to completely halt your progress and have you contemplating dropping that class. It might be difficult at first, but as the stress starts to fade away with each double-spaced page you churn out, you’ll feel more confident. You don’t need to do all the writing at once, so take some breaks. Just make sure your breaks don’t entail having a grand old time at the Royal Oak three nights in a row.

4. Edit

Most people ignore this phase. But do your professors and final marks some good, and reread your work—doing so out loud can be especially helpful. You’ll catch typos and spelling mistakes and you’ll end up with a stellar mark. Okay, so don’t quote me on the last part, but you never know.

5. Hand it in, repeat process 

You’re done! Congratulations, it’s time to celebrate, right? Nope, it’s not. You’ve only finished one essay out of five. So stop, breathe, and repeat. You can celebrate in December.