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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

The academics anonymous’ guide to the ideal B+ paper

We’ve all had this happen. Yep, you just wrote the best paper of your life, you think, but, you get it back, and it has become a significant shade of red (or green) with an “Excellent Job, B+” as a verdict. What? No way, you think. This was a Pulitzer prize-worthy paper! And, if nothing else, I even spent all of four hours working on it—that effort alone must be rewarded. So, from our experience as solid B+ paper writers, we would like to offer a few insights to you regarding the keys to writing a successful B/B+ paper (one that can occasionally even become B+/A-). And, since one of us (Stuchlik) got an A- as recently as sophomore year, we think—no, proclaim—ourselves to be qualified to offer some—no, a lot—of useful advice.

Step 1. Rumor has it that some professors and departments start their grading at A-, so once you recognize that, turn this fact in your favor and write a solid B+ paper (which would have been A- on others’ scales). How can you detect that? Well, if even after spending all of four hours working on the paper you still get only a meager B+, then something outside of your control must be wrong. Once you accept that which is out of your hands, not only will you avoid agonizing about your paper, but you will also have more free time—and the same grade as you would have gotten anyways.

Step 2. Don’t over-familiarize yourself with the topic. Rather, come with an empty mind. Otherwise, you will be mired in a mountain of books which you will haphazardly look through, and end up with a paper that would be considered too general. What’s the perfect balance then, you may ask? It differs for everyone but finding one useful book and reading an introduction usually works. By checking out too many books, you also risk eventually losing them and paying those hefty fines. Rather than overwhelming yourself with material, what you should profoundly familiarize yourself with instead is the art of Word formatting.

Step 3. One important consideration for any insightful and scholarly paper, B+ category, is knowing when to start. You may see your classmates shove off for Burling the day you get the assignment, or God forbid, make small talk about the paper weeks ahead of the deadline, but starting this paper earlier than the night before its due date is hazardous and not recommended. In fact, starting that early may not be required. Shorter assignments (under seven pages) can usually be accomplished in just a few hours, so you needn’t start before the morning it’s due.

Step 4. You will need a ritual, though. This series of seemingly inconsequential choices needs to be consistent for all of your writing assignments, as it will push you over the top when you need to turn it up to 11. You’ll need to consider where you want to write. Do you write papers on your laptop? Do you like the large screens and power of the computers in the CCL? Or do you like the minimalist functionality of a dorm lounge computer lab? Do you pick up that Outtake before you start, or as a reward in the middle of the paper? What Pandora station are you going to create for this paper? And most importantly, every paper starts with thorough checks of email, Facebook, Plans, YouTube and probably ESPN, in any order you like. All these and more are the choices you’ll have to make along the journey to that B+.

Hopefully our advice will help you the next time you have a paper to write. Following those four easy steps will not only give you a good grade, but will allow you to acquire a newfound sense of writing artistry. And, if for any reason our methods do not work for you (we admit they are not universal), then you can definitely sign up for a Writing Lab appointment—the people there are great and really helpful. And, if the paper is due soon? No worries, just ask for an extension—Writing Lab should have some spots still open next semester.

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