Prologue: “Nancy” (she of fraternal twin fame) announced yesterday, “They changed my medicine, and I’m supposed to be able to pay attention better now.”

Let’s see how that goes. Here on Earth.

That dreaded time of year is at hand: Research. We’re going into the library next week, and we’re trying to get topics dialed in. I make them put their topic in the form of a question, and then their thesis is their prediction for the answer to that question.  I’m trying to eliminate the dreaded “all about” paper: France, Soccer, Hitler, Cheese, Dolphins.

Anyway, we were going over the first handout today. It’s the one with all the technical requirements and length  and suchlike. It’s the only part anyone (especially parents) thinks is important. How long does it have to be? What size font? (Do I look like an idiot? Does ANYONE actually believe that the old giant-font-size trick works?) When’s the final draft due? Do we hafta have pictures?

And etc. I was at the part in my speech about the old “putting it in my own words” method of research paper writing.

“I’m betting that for you guys writing a research paper looks a lot like this… You have the encyclopedia or Wikipedia or whatever open over on this side, and over here you’re writing your paper. And the book says, ‘There was a great migration of settlers westward…’ and you write, ‘Many settlers migrated west,’ directly into your paper. You probably relied on one groovy source, so that it’s easy to do what I just did, and besides, they’re all going to say the same thing.”

Lots of sheepish looks.

“That ain’t gonna happen here. You’re going to actually take notes, and then write the paper from your notes. That other way you’re used to? That’s plagiarism. I gave three F’s for that last year, plus one more to some genius who tried to use the free sample from one of those ‘buy a paper’ web sites.”

“Whoa, how’d you catch him?”

“Duh. Why do you think I make the research paper one of the last things we do? One: I couldn’t cope with reading whatever you might have come up with back in October or whenever. I had to teach you some vocabulary and some writing savvy.  Two: Now I know what you sound like. I’m going to know it’s not you within two paragraphs. Plus: How hard is it to type a suspect sentence or two, with quotes around it, into Google? It took about 45 seconds.”

“Don’t you give this speech every year?” (Perceptive lad, that.) Why do people do that?”

“People get desperate. They were lazy throughout the process, and didn’t use the time or the help that they were given, and now it’s June 2nd and the paper’s due in two…”

(Here’s the payoff, as they used to say.)

Nancy has suddenly perked up, Earth and Planet Nancy align, and she bursts out,

“It’s June 2nd?”

(Oh, but that’s not all.)

Sheer pandemonium, because she said it in all seriousness. Only the laughter made her realize. Then from amidst the din, one motormouth genius yells,

“It’s April 11th, Nancy! Duh.”

“Umm. ‘Gary’? It’s May.”

Pandemonium II.

“I was just joking.”

Uh huh.