DegreeTutor.com’s 57 Tips for Writing Your Term Paper is an incredible resource, extending far beyond 3×5 cards and proper citations. It’s almost a holistic approach to writing that encompasses where, when, and how to research, write, and format your work. My favorite part is the first, “Know Thy Professor” — a pretty keen insight into the life of us academics, and excellent advice for students to whom our lives are, I think, something of a mystery:
Professors and teaching assistants are theoretically there to help you. Understanding their role will help you utilize them appropriately. These tips are very general, mostly non-study related tips that can go a ways to helping your grades.
3. Don’t lie to your professor. Ever. They smell the stench of your lie before you open your mouth. They’ve heard it all before. If you need an extension for your term paper, approach them like a human being, with professional respect.
4. No sob stories. If you intend to ask for a deadline extension because life got in the way, be prepared to at least show the professor how much work you have already done. Showing willingness to learn may be sufficient to win that extension.
5. Don’t wait to the last minute. Don’t be like the student who went to the teaching assistant five minutes before a paper was due to profess that they didn’t understand the assignment. No one is going to give you an extension at that point.
6. Think like a professor. Most professors say it takes about two minutes of preparation for each minute of lecture. Participate in the learning process by previewing topics before a lecture. If you want to go a step beyond, understand what a lecturer has to consider when preparing exams, assignments and term paper options.
Most of the time, if you treat your professors like real people and not as adversaries, they’ll treat you the same way. This means, of course, dropping the illusion that you’re very very clever and original, at least when it comes to excuse-making — most professors start with the assumption that we’re being played, and when the excuse you’ve worked so long to work out turns out to be the same one the 6 students before you came up with, well… let’s just say, it’s not likely to be very convincing. Instead, keep in mind that your professor wants you to do the work, even if it means bending the rules — when faced with a student who honestly wants to learn, it’s a hard professor indeed who won’t cut them a little slack.