How to Write a Massive Paper in Less Than 7 Days in Less Than 7 Steps
You have a MASSIVE paper. Maybe it’s not even massive, but that’s not the problem. The problem for most students is that after you struggle through those hours of writing, you come to find later that it’s been peppered with red slashes and circles. If you worked so hard, why did you end up writing so poorly?
1. Relax. Take a breath. Do you know what the prompt is asking you? If you are confused about what you are supposed to be writing about, talk to your teacher/professor/smart friend. Once you know what you are meant to be writing about in 5+ pages, you’re ready for the next step.
(Maximum Time: 1 day mental preparation)
2. Do you know the information? If you’re writing a paper on the Great Depression, do you know the facts? What years did the Great Depression happen, who was President, and why did it happen? Before you write anything, make sure you know the key points your instructor will want you to touch on, and have notes with you. Don’t be afraid to ask your instructor if there are any specific issues not mentioned in the prompt that he/she would like you to write about.
(Maximum Time: 1-2 days to take notes if you didn’t pay attention in class)
3. Draw up an outline. Depending on the paper and your style, it can be a really simple outline, or a complex one. You decide. Start with developing your thesis statement, because it needs to stay consistent throughout your paper. I personally like to make an outline this way: I write the introduction, then the conclusion. This way, I will know where my paper is going. After that, I write a couple of key points I plan on writing about for each paragraph. For example:
“Par. 4: Roosevelt and the New Deal- write about federal projects started during this time.”
It may not seem like much, but once you get to that point, you will have a lot to write about.
(Maximum Time: Less than 1 day–the thesis is what will take you the longest)
4. Study the prompt. Read it several times. Have coffee and watch Netflix with it, because the prompt is now your best friend. Your paper must match the prompt like an answer matches a question. This step is very important. After the prompt becomes the mantra beating in your heart, get out your laptop, or whatever you prefer to write with, and in a space where you are comfortable, begin to write/type in response to the prompt. Write as much as you can and without looking back. Ignore the spelling errors.
Just write for two or three hours straight–pour as much information about the subject in response to the prompt as you can for as long as you can. After your preparation, you will probably be able to write at the very least, four pages. This is what most college students refer to as “word barf” in paper writing. It’s actually a euphoric feeling as you let go and let the words flow in a weird, cathartic experience. You probably already know what the next step is.
(Maximum Time: a good chunk of an afternoon. Give yourself a pat on the back and have something tasty for dinner! That was hard work.)
5. After your other-worldly experience, it’s time to give your essay some form. First off, check for any spelling and grammar mistakes. Look at the “your/you’re”s, the “its/it’s”s, the “they’re/their/there”s, and so on and so forth. Your paper is messy, and some sentences you wrote last night are going to have to be obliterated completely. You were in the zone for a good 75% of it, but what were you thinking? Annie the Musical isn’t based on a true story. She didn’t actually give Roosevelt the idea for the New Deal.
As you make your paper fit into the outline you made earlier, you’ll come across some points you started to make in your word barf that were actually really good. Elaborate on these points, so long as they’re appropriate for the prompt. Keep chipping away where your statements lacked the necessary truths, tone, or tangibility, and continue to develop your statements that have promise, potential, or possibilities. Your paper will not only grow in length if you need it to, but it will also grow in greatness.
(Maximum Time: a couple of slightly frustrating hours. But you’re nearly there!)
6. Ah, the final step! Proofreading. I’m certain your instructors have emphasized it at some point. They’ve probably done “peer-review” assignments, where you switch drafts of your paper with your neighbor. Proofreading is underestimated. But the best way (in my experience) to proofread is to read each sentence aloud. If something sounds weird, it’s probably written incorrectly. Maybe you don’t know all the grammatical rules, and that’s okay, but there is something about hearing a sentence spoken wrongly. For example:
“The lines for the soup kitchen was always long.”
This sentence sounds off to me. When I speak it aloud, I feel the need to say:
“The lines for the soup kitchen were always long.”
I don’t always catch all my mistakes, and neither will you. That’s why it’s always good to proofread more than once, and have a second (or even third) pair of eyes. Even when I was in college, I e-mailed my mom my papers before I submitted them. Now and again, she would catch a mistake that I didn’t. It’s always worth it to ask your instructor if they will look over first drafts. In my experience, if it was a few days before the due date, a good number of them agreed, especially in high school.
(Maximum Time: 1 day. You made it!)
MAXIMUM TIME: 6.5 DAYS
MINIMUM TIME: 3-4 DAYS