7 Tips for Surviving a University Paper

It’s inevitable; you’ll write a university paper, if you haven’t already.  An essay or a lab report or a study of some sort is probably coming your way via blackboard. It’s the sort of thing that keeps me up at night, that haunts my days. Papers, much like horror move-style ghosts, are unpleasant, but have to be dealt with.

See, the thing about writing your first University paper is that it’s new. No matter how many five-paragraph essays or little generic lab reports you shot out back in high school, this is going to be an experience… of some sort. The very thought of it makes me want to curl up in a ball and hope it all goes away. Who can relate?


(Possible way to handle assignments.)

However, that plan, even if it is by far the easiest, isn’t going to get anything done. At all. So, what then are you supposed to do? How does one survive the University Paper? I mean, I can’t confess that I have it totally figured out – I most certainly do not. Nonetheless, here’s my unqualified advice for paper-writing survival.

  1. Make a schedule and stick to it! First things first, get a plan going by laying out precisely what you’re going to do, and when you’re going to do it. Make sure to accommodate your other coursework, and make sure that once you’ve established that plan, you don’t slack – it only means more work for a later date.
  2. Do an outline. Maybe this was the bane of your existence in high school, and maybe making outlines is not exactly a jazzy way to spend your time, but it helps get the basics down. Knowing what you’re going to write and how it’ll be formatted is going to make the actual writing part 1000% easier.
  3. Listen to your prof’s advice. Because it certainly is going to help you in specific ways when it comes to citation and so on. I mean, I’d be lost if not for the little hints that some professors have given. All that administrative stuff? It can be beneficial. And while we’re on the subject, make use of your prof’s (and TA’s) office hours and email. I’ve heard this spiel what feels like a billion times in class, which means it must be important.
  4. Campus resources are your friends. Here’s the part where I name drop all the important places – the library’s vast array of books and online resources, online databases supplied by the school, the academic skills center, the multiple different study spaces around the school. By no means is that an exhaustive list, in fact, it’s a pretty empty one. The point is, help is there, and if you need it, go for it!
  5. Sleep is not for the weak. When it comes to maintaining some semblance of mental and physical health under intense stress, remember to get to bed at some point! Not only will it make getting up for classes slightly easier, but it will make that essay writing a lot less exhausting. So, be sure to write when you’re well rested.
  6. Find your zone. Me, I like working on the second (technically third) floor of the library, along the window. That study space works is where I can find my mental zone and get to work. Find you second floor library seat (figuratively speaking) and make sure it’s a place where you can work.
  7. Take a break. Or better yet, take a number of breaks. Write for an hour, then play on your phone for five minutes (and no longer), or go get a coffee or tea. Allow your brain to take a breather. Not only will it give you some sort of time frame – hourly breaks are unscientifically proven to make doing things for your paper for multiple hours at a time feel manageable – but taking short breaks will allow you to put some enjoyment in an otherwise fairly intense process.

So there you have it. The seven things I remind myself of when faced with a daunting writing task. To get the A, be sure to keep your mental and physical health in check and remember, university papers are only scary if you let them stress you out. So, I bid you all good luck, and happy writing!

(Stop reading my blog for now, and get to work!)



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