With midterms approaching, meeting all the deadlines tends to feel impossible at times. After three years in a writing-based major, I’ve learned a few things about turning out good papers under pressure. Whether you’re ahead of schedule or trying to finish before midnight, these strategies will help you write more efficiently and turn in a better-finished paper.
The first step to writing any paper should be to outline exactly what you need to cover. This will help you stay focused on the topic or thesis of your paper since you’ll already have the finished product in mind when you start writing. Additionally, having your whole paper outlined will make it easier to pick up where you left off since you won’t only be depending on whether you can remember your train of thought.
- Add Outside References
What kind of resources you can use depends on the paper prompt, but most class papers are tied to some kind of reference material. Make it a goal to have at least one direct quote per outline section. As well as adding to your word count, this will tie your paper back to the themes and topics from class.
- Read Out Loud
Although it sounds weird, reading what you’ve written out loud is an easy way to make your writing flow together more naturally. If it sounds awkward to say, it’s also going to be awkward to read – run-on sentences and bad grammar are much more obvious when spoken. Reading out loud forces you to read more slowly, which means that this method also helps you to find typing mistakes you would normally gloss over when scanning the page.
- Write Strategically
Some sections of a paper are harder to write than others – with no words on the page, trying to come up with a good introduction is counterproductive. Save the introduction section for last, once you’ve already established the tone of the rest of the paper. Similarly, if you hit a section where you’re stuck for more than a few minutes, move on to another point that you can continue with. You’ll get more writing done this way, and having an outline established means you can easily move between sections.
- Phone a Friend
If you finish before the deadline, asking someone else to read through your paper is the best way to ensure you haven’t missed any mistakes. After looking at the same words for so long, it’s easy to miss things, but someone who’s seeing it for the first time will notice spelling and typing issues right away. It’s also a good way to make sure you’ve fully explained the topic – if your writing is clear, your paper should make sense to anyone else who reads it.