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7. Spend about 40% of Your Time Writing the Rest
How much do you have till you need to have the paper ready? If you have 30 minutes, then consider 10 minutes for outlining, 15 minutes for writing the body of your essay, and 5 minutes for revision. If you have an hour, then redistribute the time accordingly.
Start with the simplest: break the essay into 5 paragraphs (a standard), including the introduction and conclusion. Each of them should contain a main point, evidence that supports it, summarizing sentences, and transitions to the next paragraph.
Write your thesis statement in the intro. Ascertain that each paragraph’s key sentence is connected with the thesis statement. At this stage, all you need is to draft. You’ll finalize your sentences later.
Here, you’ll write your supportive statements or provide evidence to your key points. You’ll introduce and summarize each paragraph and properly connect the parts of the essay together. That is the main chunk of your writing, for which you’ll require up to 40% of your time. There is no need to spend more.
1. Understand the Assignment
The ultimate waste of time when writing a paper is to write something that doesn’t even answer the question the professor is asking. Don’t be afraid to ask the professor to explain any part of the assignment that’s unclear.
If the assignment seems vague, it’s not because the professor is trying to trip you up. Often, it’s that they know their field so well that it’s easy for them to think some things are “obvious”…even when they aren’t to us non-experts.
Remember: asking for clarification because you don’t understand the assignment doesn’t make you stupid; what’s stupid is to complete the assignment without understanding it.
Yet, when I was an English TA in college, I saw this problem all the time. Students would spend hours researching and writing a paper on a completely different topic than what the professor assigned. It doesn’t matter how good a paper is–if it doesn’t answer the question, it’s going to receive a bad grade.
Best case scenario, the professor is nice and lets you rewrite it, but why do all that extra work? Furthermore, asking the professor for clarification shows initiative–that you care about the assignment. Demonstrating this level of engagement with your assignments can only boost your grade.
4. Create the main structure of your research paper
Sometimes, research paper topics are assigned to students but the best scenario is when you are allowed to pick your topic. In this case, you can use brainstorming or mind-mapping techniques to come up with a good topic that is relevant to your assignment guidelines and that you’re interested in writing about.
The key to success is to choose a topic that is as broad as possible. Remember that your time is limited and you can’t afford to spend a lot of time doing research to find enough material for writing on an unusual or a rare topic. It’s the best way to select a topic that a lot of previous research has been done on it.
If you are not sure how to write a 3-page research paper fast, keep in mind that the fastest way is to do your research first and develop your thesis statement later. Developing your thesis early is not a good idea because you may find that there is not enough evidence to support it.
You can start with Wikipedia to get a broad overview of the topic. Other good information sources are Google Scholar, online databases and encyclopedias, government reports and other publications, scholarly articles in scientific journals, newspapers, etc.
You need to review all the sources you find, evaluate the collected information, and take quick notes of the key ideas you may want to cite or paraphrase in your research paper. Don’t forget to keep track of your sources so that you can cite them in your paper to avoid plagiarism. You can use your notes later when building your bibliography page.
Now when you finish your research and have tons of ideas, it is vital to structure them. Before you start writing, you need to organize your ideas in an outline. Planning and outlining are critical for the success of your writing assignment because they will save you’re a lot of time when you actually start writing.
Without an outline, your project will lack focus and you may spend much more time during the writing process trying to figure out how to make sense of your unorganized thoughts. So you should invest some time into writing your thesis statement and making a well-structured outline.
Your thesis statement is the main idea of your paper so it needs to be specific. Besides, your thesis should be concise and simple. It should briefly outline the points you are going to argue in your research paper and support it with relevant evidence.
An outline can serve you like a road map for writing your research paper. So try to make it as detailed as possible. In this way, you will have a good idea of what your paper is going to look like. Think about the main points that will support your thesis – they will be your subheadings.
Then you need to group your notes together and match all the information that fits together under each of your sub-headings. If any information doesn’t support your thesis statement, it doesn’t belong to your academic paper no matter how interesting it is.
Write an abstract that summaries the main ideas and the purpose of your research paper. Then start writing your introduction. The introduction should put the topic of your research paper in some sort of context.
Start with a strong opening sentence that will grab your readers’ attention. Then you should provide some background information relevant to your topic and briefly explain why this topic is important.
When you complete an analysis in the written form, write the conclusion. You can restate your thesis using other words and briefly summarize your paper. You should avoid using repetitive phrases and facts and ideas that you have already stated.
You can also explain why you think your points support your thesis statement. Besides, you can suggest some interesting ideas and points for further research and explain why you think they are important.
This is simple – you are given a set of guidelines, and you have to follow them. Most colleges use one of the widely accepted formatting styles, such as MLA or APA, which means that you can safely use online resources with instructions on how to apply them.
There isn’t much to say – you may try using automatic citation generators to make your work easier and save time, but mostly, you just have to be attentive and compare your paper with the style guide as often as possible.
Depending on the discipline you study, the requirements for the style may be different. Generally speaking, academic papers follow more or less the same conventions. Revising your paper simply means making sure you follow them. Here are some points to look out for:
⚓ Avoid passive voice. Many students believe it makes their writing look more serious and dignified, while in reality it just makes awkward and boring writing.
⚓ Don’t use slang, colloquial expressions, or jargon. Your language should be appropriate for a scientific paper.
⚓ Avoid contractions like “don’t”, “won’t”, and so on. They are considered colloquial.
⚓ Take a break from your paper before you sit down to revise it. If you have time, make it, at least, a couple of days – this will help you see more grammar mistakes and logical errors when you get to it.
We hope that this guide will be useful in your attempts to write a perfect 10-page essay. Of course, it doesn’t cover all the tricks one learns over the years, but it can give you a good start!
First, study all the requirements carefully and don’t miss anything important before you start the research paper. After that, pick your topic. Try to select a broad topic because you can find more relevant information instead of looking for obscure articles.
Think about the number of paragraphs in your paper and distribute the information you have throughout these paragraphs — it will be the body of your text.
Write the selected sources in your own words to make the paragraphs for the body of your text.
After that, carefully check the style in which you have written the main parts of the text while working with the sources. The whole text must be written in one style in order to avoid plagiarism that your professors could notice while reading your work.
Finally, add all citations at the end of your text.
Now prepare the introduction of your text. It should contain about five sentences and you need to introduce the topic in this part with some general words and finish your introduction with a thesis statement.
To write a good conclusion, figure out the most important facts that you have written and restated them briefly in other words. The conclusion should contain the facts that must be remembered by your reader and emphasize the general idea of your text.
At the end, prepare a list of citations.
After you have done all your work, start checking your mistakes. If you do it in the morning the next day your mind will be much clearer after you sleep and relax. This way, you can have a look at your paper from another perspective and find mistakes more productively.
This step is crucial. If you understand the question vaguely from the beginning, you’ll be forced to go back to it when you should be focusing on writing. Come up with a quick answer in your head. This way, you’ll have the idea of what to write about.
You’ve drafted them when you did the outline. This time, make sure that your sentences are strong, precise, and don’t require further editing. Normally, you won’t need more than a couple of minutes.
You already have your thesis statement in the intro. So, write a hook preceding it — a quote, a relevant anecdote in a sentence or two, or some statistical information associated with the topic. Also, make a transition to the body of your essay at the end of the intro.
In the conclusion, re-summarize the thesis statement while linking it to the evidence that you are providing in the body paragraphs. Write a conclusive sentence that would place the information in your paper into a broader context.
7. Draft and Edit Separately
First, you need to read the assignment and understand the guidelines for your project. You have to get a clear idea of how long your paper should be (number of words, pages) and what citation style (APA, MLA or other) is preferred by your instructor.
Now you’ve come up to the point when you can actually start writing your first draft. Try to write with your own voice and include in-text citations where it is necessary to support your research ideas.
When you write the first draft, you should do quick editing and revising to improve the content and the structure. Besides, you need to proofread your work.
There are many things you should pay attention to when writing a research paper, but the most important of them are:
❶ Structure. Most essay types have to be written in a strict structure. Although some minor deviations are acceptable, it is usually recommended to carefully follow the guidelines you’ve received from your college in general and your instructor in particular;
❷ Information sources. An academic work cannot exist in isolation from the rest of the researches on its topic. Moreover, its quality is evaluated based on how many unique sources it uses and their relative value;
❸ Formatting. Students may think that academic institutions pay too much attention to paper format, but it is a reality of academic life. If you want to receive a good grade, you have to organize your paper by following the format preferred by your school, be it APA, MLA or something else;
❹ Revision and proofreading. This often-neglected stage can make or break your essay. How skilled you are at proofreading determines how polished your paper is going to be. Little efforts at this stage can go a long way towards ensuring your success.
Below, we will deal with each of these stages independently, but right now, we should pay attention to another problem students often face – the need to write a paper quickly.
Of course, the best course of action to deal with an urgent assignment is to sit down and write it right away, without waiting until the last moment. But what should you do if you’ve already procrastinated and have a single night to write ten full pages of text with the detailed research and bibliography?
At a glance, one is inclined to say that it is impossible; however, if you play your cards right and use a few hours left until the deadline with care, it is possible. Not easy by any means, but doable. Here are some suggestions that can help you:
- Prepare a plan for your paper. You may be inclined to start writing as soon as possible, but believe us: ten to twenty minutes you spend compiling a plan can save you, at least, a few hours’ worth rewriting and corrections. Write down how you are going to introduce your topic, which points are to be mentioned and when, how they are to be connected with each other, what is the thesis statement of your paper, how you are going to conclude your research, etc. Once you’ve done it, you will simply have to write it all down in more details – which is much easier than to write page after page straight out of your head.
- Prepare a plan for your work. Take enough time to divide the writing process into segments, dedicating each of them to a particular stage of your work. Determine how much time you expect to take for every stage. For example, collecting sources – 1 hour, reading the sources – 2 hours, etc. In this way, you will be able to see if any of the stages takes too long, and you should pick up your step doing it.
- Look for sources using specialized search tools. Want to avoid losing extra time? Don’t hesitate to use the most effective searching means. Some of the best (from those that are not discipline-specific) are Google Scholar, Elsevier, and EBSCO. Organize all sources you have so that you know to what chapter of your paper they refer.
- Use citation management tools. Put all references you find useful and relevant for your research into a citation management tool like Mendeley. This will make their management much easier and save you a lot of time. Type your paper by regularly glancing at the source material from Mendeley. But make sure that everything you don’t quote is completely original to avoid being accused of plagiarism.
- Check the format of your paper. Every academic paper is written according to the strict formatting rules (APA, MLA, Harvard styles, etc.) Make sure you follow your college’s guidelines properly.
- Proofread the paper. It is natural to make mistakes in writing. However, they may turn out to be costly. Pay attention to grammar, syntax, logic, and consistency of writing.
Perhaps, you won’t be able to write a perfect paper, taking into account the lack of time, but going through these steps will help you compartmentalize your resources and emerge with a research paper that is, at least, passable and meets the requirements set by your college.
Whether you have many days to complete your paper or have to be quick with your writing, one thing remains the same: your writing should be done following certain conventions. The details may differ depending on the essay type, the discipline, and requirements set by your college, but mostly, the structure of a paper goes as follows:
✏ Introduction. This part is intended to inform the reader about the basics of your topic. Its most important part is called “the hook” – the first sentence or two that have to catch the reader’s eye, make him/her interested and motivated to read on.
✍ Thesis statement. Unlike the topic of your essay, a thesis statement is a short (one or two sentences) explanation of what your paper is about and what is your position on the subject. For example, to simplify things a bit, “The Role of Dickens in the Development of the English Literature” is a topic, while “Dickens played a significant part in the development of the English literature, and here is my research proving the influence he had on individual writers” is a thesis statement. Make sure it is short, up to the point and doesn’t contain vague wording.