The Simplest Paper
Step one: Pick a topic that you hate.
By Finlea Baxter, University of Oklahoma
If you hate writing papers, clap your hands.
Based on the rousing applause that just shook the continental US and beyond, I’m going to guess that one or two of you fall into the category of the Essay Hater. Unfortunately, I can’t quite empathize since I generally love to write. I can, however, sympathize with you, being lazy as hell and not particularly good at anything else in life. Effort is always asking too much of me. It’s tragic, really.
Which is why you’re going to love me in about five minutes.
If you hate putting for the effort for a paper you never wanted to write in the first place and are only doing so because your future depends on it, clap your hands.
Well, gee. No need to get… clappy… with me…
I’ll see myself out.
But really, guys, I do know the struggle of having to use my literary gifts to write about something that I really have no interest in and will, in all likelihood, forget about with the passing of the semester. No one wants to put effort into those papers. No, I see you lying. Admit it, you just want to get that crap over with. Well, I can help you.
Oh, yes, young Padawan. I see your pain.
Which is why I now bring to you my five-step plan for writing a killer essay without actually trying.
1. Find a Topic You Hate
Seriously. Find a topic or a person that you absolutely despise, something that makes your blood boil and your vision go red. Find something that brings you about five miles past the point of irate.
Why are you doing this? Well, grasshopper, have you ever been in an argument with that one friend who is getting just a little too into it? The one where he/she keeps coming back and yelling, “And another thing!” Ever notice that they’re not exactly short on words? That’s because the more you hate something, the more you have to say about it.
More words equal a bigger word count, my friends. And with the rising levels of hatred, your researching phase is going to fly by. The more information you gather, the more ammo you have, and the easier it’ll be to tear this topic apart with your bare hands like the literary cannibal you are.
2. Write a Thesis and Outline the Paper
Your life is going to be a lot easier if you actually know what it is you’re writing about. That means finding a thesis.
Sadly, “Napoleon sucks,” doesn’t cut it at this point in your education.
The time has come to ask, what made Napoleon suck? How did his suckishness affect the military power of France after his exile? Is his suck directly proportional to the military power he amassed during his reign? If you followed step one and picked something you absolutely hate, this part should be a breeze.
Find your argument. Something like, “The fall of the Qin Dynasty was directly a result of strict legalistic adherence to law and the poor management of the state by the incumbent royalty,” or something equally pretentious. You can’t just say, “The Qin dynasty rulers were strict dumbasses who has no idea how to run a country.” It’s not professional.
Once you have your thesis in order, the time has come to outline.
Outlines are your friends.
I love me some outlines. I outlined this article, you know, and as you can see, they work wonders when you’re as easily distracted as I. When you live life like a squirrel on crack, you need a guiding force to keep you on the straight and narrow. That’s where the outline comes in.
Organize the paper into paragraphs with each paragraph having a title that has something to do with the thesis.
For instance, if you were documenting Queen Elizabeth’s early years, you’d have one paragraph devoted to the English line of succession, and then the next devoted to Sir Robert Dudley, and then another to her coronation and early fight against the suiters who lined up like vultures at the edges of her court.
It doesn’t really matter how you organize the paper, just so long as the thought pattern is linear and easy to follow and has everything to do with the thesis.
Outline, my friends.
3. Find a Metric Crap-Ton of Quotes
If outlines are your friends, then scholarly quotes are your home-skillet biscuits with a side of bacon. Quotes are like the salt atop your scrambled eggs: not technically a requirement, but necessary for anything resembling flavor.
Scholarly quotes are what make the difference between a “meh” paper and a “oh, holy cheese and crackers” paper. And you know what else they do?
They eat up space.
If you live in fear of the all-powerful word count, then I have some news for you: quotes will save your life.
Now, don’t go overboard; you still have to write the darn thing. That means that you have to put your words in there. But three good quotes per paragraph are going to make your life so much nicer. Just don’t forget to attribute them. Academic dishonesty is a big no-no, and if you plagiarize, I will find you, and I will kill you.
4. Just Write the Stupid Thing
Now that the thing is outlined and the quotes are all in their proper place within the outline, the time has come to actually write this stupid paper.
Go a paragraph at a time, with a reward at the end of each one. Before you ask, no, an episode of Netflix is not a proper reward for finishing a friggin paragraph.
A paper, maybe. But a paragraph? Really guys? No, your reward needs to be something tangible, but small, like a chocolate bar or a piece or pizza. Something that will keep you going, but won’t distract you from the final goal.
And don’t forget about your quotes. They work hard for you, so the least you can do is attribute them properly and give them a good intro rather than shoe-horning them awkwardly into the text. Love your quotes and they will love you back.
Oh, and don’t forget to erase all traces of your outline. Your professors will not be impressed with your lovely planning skills if you can’t manage to make the final product look as professional as possible.
Read your friggin essays, guys.
Read them aloud, too. You’ll catch things you normally wouldn’t catch, like grammar mistakes or misspelled words. It works, just trust me. Edited papers are happy papers. That’s really all I had to say about that one…
Just edit your stuff, guys.
It’ll be okay.
And there you have it, my butterflies: the five step to writing a perfect essay without trying! I suppose, on reflection, that you would have to put some effort into it, but, really, you’re going to have to put effort into everything. Might as well make it something that’ll benefit you in the long-run, right?