Two Cent Tuesday – Term Papers

Well, it is about that time in the semester where I’m beginning to realize that I don’t have a lot of time left to get these term papers written. This semester I have two to write: one for Exposition of Hebrews class and one for Hermeneutics class. Thankfully (bitter-sweet) Just a Gal and the kids will be heading out this Thursday for a week with her parents. I plan to move into the Library for those 7 days and crank it out. Both papers are due in about two weeks.

So, what about you? Are you one of those good students who works on his or her paper from day one or are you one who waits till the very last minute?

Also, if there is anyone who thinks they have a really good system for approaching term papers, feel free to shoot me a message with the gist of your system. I think I might take everyone’s advice and write a post that shows different approaches you all use to writing term papers.


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Ryan Burns
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  • Unfortunately I cannot offer advice on getting these things done. I never like to say things like this because I feel like I’m boasting, but writing papers is a gift I have, and it is almost never a chore for me (unless the subject really blows). I’d honestly write five papers before I took a test or exam. Even though, I don’t mind the lack of papers I have this semester, because even though I enjoy them, it’s nice not to have the extra work.

  • Do you have a certain way that you approach every paper, or does it vary? Do you take lots of notes or just read and write? How much time do you spend researching (typically)? Do you typically knock it out in a day or two or do you work over a period of time?

    It might be a gift, but you might also have some good habits that could help everyone.

  • Writing the paper is not the hardest part, it is doing the research.

    I made an investment a couple of years ago that has saved me a ton of time with paper-writing. It is expensive, but well-worth it.

    Notabene is a great program that works well with formatting and bibliographies.

  • i would often sketch out the entire semester. this allowed me to plan around special events, like KU being in the Final Four…and winning a crazy game last night!

    @ #3 (tlange) – another good program is EndNotes. it’s amazing, and can pull the bio data directly from the web. somehow, Dallas Seminary was able to secure a site license, so we get it dirt cheap for the students.

  • I use the zotero plugin for firefox to do bibliography entries and the footnote feature in apple pages makes that a breeze.

    I am lucky because I am in an academic tract for my Mdiv. What this allows me to do is to be able to try to gather most of my writing together in almost every class and put it under my area of interest (worship and liturgical theology, with an emphasis on Biblical Studies as well). What this means is that I am usually really excited about writing so getting an early start isn’t a problem. What does take forever is the process of tying everything together and getting a paper into a final version.

  • @#5 (chad) – yes, the writing is always the hard part! the power of the blank page is the worst. my wife, who has her undergrad in writing, gave me great advice – “Just start writing. Your first draft will almost always be bad, but it’s much easier to work with something than nothing.” it won’t come out perfect with the first key stroke. that helped me quite a bit in seminary. i almost always had to redo my intro, but overall the process took much less time because i simply got something down on the page.

  • I’m actually not a very good example for how to write papers. About a week before, I sit down for a bit and think about my topic. Then I sketch out a brief outline (and when I say brief, I mean very brief) and then just start writing. I often research as I go, and amend the outline as necessary as I do my research. Only once have I mapped out my research beforehand. The paper took less time to complete that way (in terms of actually writing it). But that really is the way you should do it. Get a notebook, make your outline, add in all the stuff you get from researching, and then start writing. My method works for me, but it is not recommended. 🙂

Written by Ryan Burns