How to bullshit your way through a last-minute assignment
We’ve all been there: It’s the night before an assignment’s due, and while you told yourself you wouldn’t leave it until the last minute like you always do, you’ve gone and done just that. You’re staring at a blank Word document and you’ve got nothing. Nada. Zilch.
Let’s face it: You’re not going to get a great mark. It probably won’t even be good. But apparently Ps get degrees, so you might as well submit something – even if it’s total bullshit.
The mastering of bullshit is an art form. It’s been practised for generations by desperate uni students who probably should’ve listened in that lecture, and definitely shouldn’t have spent all those afternoons playing Jenga at the uni bar. It can come in handy in a number of instances, so it’s a great skill to have up your sleeve.
If you’re yet to perfect the art of bullshit, fear not. Just read up on these pointers and soon you’ll even be fooling yourself (it helps if you’re an arts student).
It’s all in the detail
Forget everything you’ve been told about Wikipedia. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so milk the wondrous resource to your heart’s content. As long as you never directly quote or reference it, it can be a goldmine for valuable background information and random facts (given you double-check their accuracy). The more detail you go into, the better, and it only has to be vaguely relevant to be effective. Talk a lot about the context of the topic, including elements like time period, culture and attitudes of the public. Simply conclude each statement by linking it back to the question. It makes sense if you say it does, so get creative!
I recently had to do a presentation for a visual communications course, and after preparing what I thought was a brilliant talk and corresponding slideshow, I realised I’d misinterpreted the topic entirely. With a few hours until I was due to present, I decided there was no other option but to roll with my mistake and use it to my advantage. I simply told the class that the researchers had failed to consider a number of things and proceeded to question the whole basis on which their theory lay. I had no idea what I was talking about, but somehow got away with it. The tutor even called my bullshit attempt “a highly sophisticated analysis”. Win.
If you’re completely lost, disguise this as being too smart for your own good. Reiterate the idea you’re responding to and insert something along the lines of, “But we must not hasten to accept this without delving deeper”. Then provide a whole bunch of counterarguments and counter argue these counterarguments. You’ll come across as a critical thinking genius.
Make it fancy
The thesaurus tool is your new best friend when it comes to sounding way more intelligent than you really are. Replace “many” with “multitudinous”, “and” with “in addition to”, and insert a “henceforth” every so often. Also keep a look out for anywhere you might be able sneak in an adverb or adjective. Your newfound highly advanced linguistic knowledge will distract the marker from the fact that you’re completely clueless. You might even come across some pretty handy vocab to keep up your sleeve for your next assignment - just ensure you keep it comprehensible, and don’t go overboard.
Markers love some good ol’ evidence to back up those claims, so scan through your readings and pick out some nice, juicy quotes that summarise your points. If a highly regarded author/scientist/philosopher said it, then it must be important, right? This will also show the marker that you’ve read the material and you’re familiar with the concepts of the topic (even though you haven’t and you’re not). Not only will it make you appear well-read, but all those lengthy quotes will also contribute to your word count, which is a very helpful added bonus.
Aobh studies journalism at UNSW, eats too much ice cream and is half Irish in case you couldn’t tell. She tweets at @Aobh_OBM.