The Best Paper in the History of this College

It’s the beginning of fall semester. During my first class in World History, the professor hands out the course syllabus. My mouth drops. There on the syllabus, appears that most dreaded of assignments, a TERM PAPER . . .  a 20-page typed TERM PAPER. . . formatted in MLA style . . . with a minimum of five academic references (no blog posts) . . . due on the last day of the semester at High Noon.

A sense of impending doom permeates my brain. The longest paper I ever had to write before was ten pages, and I copied most of that from an old essay my sister wrote for her English class. Now as I read the college’s policy on plagiarism, I decide not to try that strategy again.

The Challenge

Then I quietly affirm to myself, “I WILL write this term paper. In fact, it will be the best term paper in the history of this college!” Fortified with a new sense of bravado, I calm myself with the assurance that I have 16 weeks to complete this assignment.

Kept busy with extracurricular activities, I take little notice of time passing by . . . until my history professor announces that our paper is due in a mere four weeks. “That can’t be!” However, a quick perusal of my planner confirms that not only is my paper due, but several other assignments as well.

As I quietly breathe through a mild panic attack, I resolve to cancel my social plans that weekend to hit those books. However, a nasty case of the flu renders me far too queasy to focus on my reading.  As I grab a tissue and swig some flu medicine, I calm myself with the assurance that Thanksgiving weekend is approaching, and I will have four full days to work on my term paper. Yes, I will do this!

The Thanksgiving Challenge

On the day before Thanksgiving, I follow through on my promise to pick up my sister from the airport.  Naturally, her flight is delayed for three hours, and I forgot to bring my text books, so I lost that opportunity to be productive.

After arguing that I am too busy with school work to help with Thanksgiving preparations, I head into the basement and outline a study schedule that includes a one-hour break to eat Thanksgiving dinner.  Mmmm . . . but the smell of that turkey keeps distracting me, as do the sounds of my relatives arriving. The temptation is too great; I join my family in the festivities. As I plop down on the couch stuffed from all that turkey and pie, I rationalize that I am entitled to enjoy holidays. There are still three more days.

Early on Friday morning, I head to the local library. After a few hours of productive reading, I pat myself on the back convinced that I will get most of this term paper done this weekend. Just then, I run into an old friend whom I haven’t seen for a couple of years. We start chatting which leads to a movie followed by dinner. Late that evening, I assure myself that Saturday’s plans to attend a football game shouldn’t derail my mission too much – what a delusion.

On Sunday morning, I race to the local library again. Closed! I hadn’t counted on that.  Oh well, I sigh as I watch a favorite holiday movie. Next week will be the most productive week in the history of my college.

 Final Countdown

After receiving a disappointing quiz grade, I realize with horror that my term paper is due on Monday at noon. I only have 72 hours to complete it, and I haven’t even selected a topic yet! Of course, that doesn’t stop me from attending a party with my friends that night.

The day before the paper is due, I ceremoniously open my textbook to choose my paper topic, “The Fall of the Roman Empire.” Armed with a topic, I select my textbook, two other textbooks and two encyclopedias as my reference. Typing my textbook chapter verbatim (in quotes of course), I complete the first ten pages of the term paper.  Using my other references in a similar fashion, I complete 15 pages.

Hours before High Noon of the paper due date, I restate all the reference information in my own words and ditch the MLA formatting. Then, I widen my page margins, and enlarge my font size, and restate my own words again.  Finally, I’m on the middle of the 20th page. “Close enough.” I proclaim.  As I email my paper to my professor at 11:59 a.m., I resolve that my NEXT term paper will be the best term paper in the history of this college.



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