The Fine Art of Bullshitting Your Way Through Any Paper

It’s a sinking feeling, but I’m not on a roller coaster, stuck on a shipwreck, or battling vertigo. White-hot anxiety resonates through me as I frantically burrow through my backpack, trying to find the syllabus in question. Soon a semester’s worth of paper is strewn across the sidewalk and, with a simple gust, the wind takes it away, happily initiating my papers’ post-consumer life while effectively creating jobs for public trash collectors. Finally, at the bottom of the backpack spooning an old sandwich, I find the needed handout and recoil with a terror I haven’t experienced since I found out they’d cancelled Party Down.

My fears are confirmed; that term paper, the excessively-daunting one that was assigned ten weeks ago for the class I’d been skipping in lieu of naps and recreational drug use, is due six hours from now at midnight. Tragically, my tentative evening plans of McNuggets-Monster’s Ball-masturbate-repeat have been shattered and I’m left to trudge to the library while attempting to skim over the salvaged rubric, trying to discern phrases and criteria amidst pieces of infused tomato.

Everything climaxes into pure panic for a split second; it’s truly what I picture snuff-film acting to be like. Soon, though, it subsides into a tranquil, unburdening calm as I remember that this procrastinator’s predicament happens to me all the time. Worries are really just for overly-protective moms and politically-minded elderly. There’s no concern here; I’m a crafty old spider when it comes to spinning webs of astute-sounding bullshit.

Like a veteran, I manage my initial expectations. I’ve conceded that this paper isn’t going to be great. There’s no movie-magic moment in store where I turn into Teen Wolf, write a brilliant paper contrasting dynamic character archetypes in American cinema, subsequently win the school’s basketball game, and save enough time after to fingerbang the attractive coed in the gymnasium coat check. There’s not going be any heart-melting, sympathy-eliciting emails to my professor, duping him into granting me an extension after believing that I’m just now getting over scarlet fever, crippling gout, and my mother’s death. No, today I’m doing the sensible adult thing: using other’s people work to power through this paper while keeping my overall expectations exceedingly low.

Once I sit down, muscle memory sets in; my left hand toggles between Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V through countless Wikipedia entries that I justify as “technically reviewed by my peers.” Savvy, I’m careful to keep everything in broad terms, never using actual data or anything that could be later pinpointed as idiotically inaccurate. The bibliography snaps together; fancy boy journals are liberally attributed, as they’re, in essence, more convoluted ways to express what was relayed from said Wiki pages. Looking back, I’m impressed; ten pages fill up pretty quick when I’m not actually writing it.

Once amassed, I take this garbled, erroneously-apathetic mess and, with a simple once over, polish it into a passable rambling. SpellCheck is blindly trusted, adjectives are liberally peppered in, and the thesaurus is fully utilized, helping me rephrase other’s ideas and actual writing into my own, unsearchable sentences. No one said this had to be pretty.

Now it measures up to my low standards, truly “good enough.” There’s nothing else to do except to expand the margins, employ a font size that takes up the most space without being obvious, and cop those McNuggies to get my night started.

Justin Gawel is an adult baby from Michigan whose articles appear on and most weeks. Look for more of his updates at or follow him @justingawel on Twitter.

[Image via ShutterStock]