Hey everyone! Over the years I’ve had my fair share of English and other writing intensive classes, and combined with my tendency to procrastinate I’ve had to come up with a way to write papers fast.
step one: finding a topic and research (aka the hardest part)
You can’t write a paper without a good topic, a strong thesis, and solid research. There’s no getting around that, no matter how short you are on time. Depending on the class and the teacher, you may have your topic chosen for you or you may have total freedom. If your situation is the latter, an ideal topic is one the you care about, have some general knowledge of already, and is specific enough to be covered in the number of pages you’re limited to. After you have a topic picked, do some quick searches to see what’s out there. If your school’s library has a database, that’s the perfect place to start. Be sure to chose quality articles that have been peer reviewed when possible, and where it’s not acknowledge that the source may be an biased in your paper.
Once you’ve started research, you should have a pretty good idea of what your angle is going to be and what points you want to make. Next write a working thesis. This is basically a sentence or two that states what you will spend the next few pages proving. Once you have it, write it on an index card and put it aside for the next step.
step two: outlining
Take a look at your past papers. How many paragraphs are usually on a page? It’s about two for me, so I keep that in mind when planning my outline. Now for the part that lets me write so fast: index cards.
Take one index card per paragraph you’ll need to fill your page limit, and write “into” on the back of the one with your thesis, and conclusion on the other. Now think about how to best prove your thesis, and anything else you saw in research that you want to address.
- On one side of the card goes the general topic of the paragraph (ie, “significance of symbolism”).
- On the back goes all of the specific notes and details that will go in that paragraph (ie, “spring as a symbol of a fresh start for x character”)
- Once you’ve done that for every paragraph lay them out in front of you and experiment with order. How do they flow naturally?
step three: writing
Now that you have your outline, all you have to do is expand on what’s on your cards. Paragraphs should be at least five sentences each, which is super easy to achieve since you already know what you’re going to say! Think of each paragraph as a mini paper: sentence one should be a topic sentence/intro, explaining what you’re going to cover. The middle/body defends and expands on your topic sentence, and the last sentence or two should conclude the paragraph and transition to the next.
Once you have your body, you can work on your intro and conclusion. A general rule of thumb for intros is to start with a hook (something interesting that draws the reader in) and ends with your thesis. In the middle should be a sentence or so for each paragraph/point, just to give a little map of where you’re going. The conclusion is basically the same, except in reverse. Wrap it up and tell them what you just told them.
After that, let it sit for a little while (ideally a day, but if you’re short on time just go to dinner) and then come back to edit with fresh eyes. Reading out loud will help you catch typos!
step four: citations and formatting
I like to cite as I go so I don’t have to do it all at once. I typically write my own, but if I’m in a pinch I’ll use a citation generator (like son of citation) that works super fast. Just be sure to cite everything that needs one! Plagiarism is so not cool. Double check MLA/APA/Chicago guidelines and make sure that everything is formatted right, and you’re good to hit submit!
Good luck on those papers, my fellow procrastinators!