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It’s never too late to write a term paper

First impressions of the evening. Photo: Olha Kuzmyn

If the deadline for your term paper is yesterday; if you think that “tomorrow will be another day” or “I can simply skip one night of sleep”; if your thesis statement says “People read books/eat food”, you probably should visit The Long Night of Postponed Papers. The Long Night of Postponed Papers (Lange Nacht der aufgeschobenen Hausarbeiten) was initiated by the Writing Center of the Europa-Universität Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder) on March 18, 2010. What at first looked rather like a small workshop with around 25 participants turned into a new trend among German universities. On March 2, 2017, our university took part in this movement as well and invited all students to the main library for a number of mini-lectures, workshops, personal advice, and a few snacks 😉

The idea of such an event is to provide students with general information about writing process (how do I start writing and what to do next), citing rules (how to use Citavi), editing (how to proofread my work and what to do with grammar), and style (how to find and stick to the main theme of the paper). For international students there were workshops about writing a paper in German as well as personal advice on papers written in English. The doors of our library were open from 4 p.m. till 1 a.m., and I must say that at 8 p.m. there were still many students queueing for a personal advice. Every now and then an “active break” with yoga or “power nap” was organized. Of course, no one can be productive without any ‘fuel’, which was provided by the cafeteria on the third floor and the café-bar. Finally, and most importantly, you could start writing your paper right away after getting the advice or workshop because you still were in the library full of books and computers!

Fortunately, I don’t have to write any papers right now, but, nevertheless, I decided to take part in two workshops related to self-motivation and brain-storming of ideas for writing. Did I learn something? – Yes!

Workshop 1. “Types of writer – strengths, weaknesses, tipps” (by L. Distler)

  • There are, of course, many classifications, but we talked about 4 main types: Planner, Diver, Versions writer, Patchwork writer.
  • After doing a short personality test I discovered that I’m a typical Diver – I get straight to writing (even without a precise plan); usually I produce a lot of text in a short period of time; the first version is often my final version (either I’m too lazy, too self-confident, or simply a genius ;-).
  • So… I’m normal! The problem here may be that normally teachers attempt to shape students as Planners who are able to manage their time, energy, and writing. The reality is that we all are different, there are no right or wrong approaches – you just need to know your strengths and weaknesses.
  • My strengths: a lot of produced text in a short time; a visible result; new and fresh ideas that appear in the process of writing.
  • My weaknesses: the danger to write too much or vaguely; excessive repetitions; it is easy to deviate from the main topic.
  • What to do: try to write a rough draft; set own deadlines; find some time for editing and proofreading.
  • If you would like to try this test out, you can refer to the book Die Schreibfitness-Mappe.

Workshop 2. “Blinking cursor – how to start writing” (by I. Schmidt)

You get this task to write something pretty quickly but cannot get working anyway? The reason for that could be procrastination or a lack of ideas. While the first problem is a topic for a dissertation, the second one can be solved with one of the next tricks:

  • Clustering. The main idea is to create chains of words that are your first associations with a certain topic. Important here is not to make one big bubble in the center and then surround it with your ideas but to make chains of words where the next word is associated with the previous one. After writing such key words you may divide them into relevant/irrelevant and even sketch a plan for your paper.
  • W-questions. Write a list of questions starting with “who, why, what, when, where…” and try to elaborate them in 5 minutes according to your own topic. Then take a look at what you’ve written and think whether you can answer these questions, what was missed, and how you could improve anything.
  • Freewriting. This was my favorite! Give yourself 5 minutes, take a pen or open a new Word document, and start writing… anything! The main idea is just to write for 5/10/20 minutes without making any pauses about everything you want. Hint: eventually, when all your jokes will be written down, you’ll start writing something connected to the topic of your paper 🙂

In general, this was a fun and informative experience of spending a Thursday evening in a library. As a bonus to the workshops you could meet new people and discuss your ideas with other students (because sometimes the best ideas are born accidentally in a discussion :))

See you next time at the library and good luck to everyone who still needs to write a paper or two!

Olha Kuzmyn