Integrity and the Art of Paper Writing

I find myself continuously mesmerized, baffled, and befuddled over the methodology in which people write academic papers. I have seen some abysmal work at the undergraduate level, but even more distressing is seeing poor work done at the graduate level. While I understand that not every paper will strive to be up for the Pulitzer, or perhaps the topic is not itself overly interesting, but one thing that ought not ever be compromised is the integrity of the writer. I have little remorse for students who are up late the night before trying to slap comingled words together on a document and call it a piece of academic work. If one is striving into the wretched hours of the morning putting final touches on papers, then that is something to lend empathy towards.

Now, I humbly admit that there has been more than one time where I have put off a paper for far too long.  However, I have tried to discipline myself in the intellectual and moral virtues to mend this flawed character trait. For if I expect a quality education, then I ought be putting forth effort that, at the very least, meets the quality I desire in return.

Writing papers in only the few days leading up to the deadline is lazy. I find people who ask for extensions for less-than-stellar reasons irresponsible. One should attempt to take pride in one’s work and posit intellectual ideas to the best of one’s capacities. The task of paper writing is not simply a check-mark off the class syllabus.  It is, rather, an art. It is something to work on over time, review, critique, and perhaps even start over.  The work should reflect the writer and the writer ought be reflected in the work. A paper is not a mere document; it is a testament to the mind of the author.

The art of paper writing should be a challenge. The only task the procrastinating writer will meet as a challenge is turning in the paper online. But this simply is not good enough and by no means is it the virtuous route to take. Challenges should be faced with integrity. One should strive to battle over writer’s block, work diligently to find that missing premise, and go to pains over the finer grammatical details (something which I still find tiring). The foundation of all this is sourced back to one key feature: the art of paper writing should make one think.

This art is a process. I typically give myself two months, at the very least, to write a substantial paper. This does not include research. Sometimes a paper can take months to complete, and even then, the author is not yet satisfied. In the Spring 2011 semester of my Masters program, I took a course titled “History of Philosophy II.” In it I had a final paper and I chose to write on a topic which incorporated one of my favorite philosophers, Soren Kierkegaard. Now let it be known that the paper was due in May. I started writing the paper in the beginning of March. This was after my research had been completed. I was fortunate enough to have a professor who was willing to read the paper beforehand to give me feedback. To permit enough time for him to read the paper, give feedback and return it for me to make substantial edits, I allowed one month.

While receiving an “A” on the paper for the course, I was still not yet satisfied with the paper as such. My ideas for it kept growing, and I groomed the paper to reflect my mindset. A few months later, after several more revisions and the paper now visiting the eyes of several peers, I submitted the paper for presentation at a philosophy conference. While initially rejected, the paper was selected to be read, which forced me to continue to make minor tweaks based on the advice of those with far greater minds than I. In March 2012, a year after writing the first draft, my paper, Anxiety and the Freedom of Choice: A Kierkegaardian Approach to Self-Development was presented at the conference.

Now, I am not here claiming that my method is perfect or the correct one. Adjust accordingly to your personal habits. The point to take home is to maintain and further personal integrity through your work. Do not compromise your integrity for the menial. May not getting a passing grade simply be sufficient enough. Learn through the process, gain understanding, and create a piece of art.

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