Demonstrating this level of engagement with your assignments can only boost your grade.
Once you understand the assignment, you need to start researching. If you’re not careful, research can be one of the best ways to procrastinate.
Get into the library or database, find your sources, take your notes, and then get to writing.“It’s impossible to figure out every detail of your argument before you sit down, look at your sources, and actually try to write.
Most students abandon their hierarchical outline soon after their fingers hit the keyboard.”– Cal Newport, “How to Use a Flat Outline to Write Outstanding Papers, Fast”Ever since I learned the traditional method of outlining papers in 8th grade, I felt the system was broken.
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. Even as someone who basically writes papers for a living these days (like this article), I still viewed every college paper with a tinge of dread.After all, writing a paper isn’t like working math problems or reading a chapter of a book.As frustrating as those activities can be, they always seemed more finite than the monumental task of “writing a paper.” You can’t just open the book and start working: you have to brainstorm, research, outline, draft, edit, and add those pesky citations.As I moved through college, however, I developed a system for cranking out papers in record time.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.As I explained in my guide to library research, you shouldn’t spend more than 30 minutes per page of the final paper researching.That is, if the paper is supposed to be 5 pages, don’t spend more than 2.5 hours on research (maximum).“One more source” can easily turn into hours that you could have been writing.To overcome the temptation to procrastinate on research, I employ my favorite approach for beating all forms of procrastination: setting a time limit.