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If the assignment seems vague, it’s not because the professor is trying to trip you up.
For a full guide to creating a distraction-free study space, check out our article on the topic.
In the meantime, here’s a summary of the best practices: Each paper you write should not feel like reinventing the wheel.
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.
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.The flat outline works because it mirrors the writing process.No one sits down to write with a perfect idea of what they’re going to say.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.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).You discover what you’re going to say through the process of writing.The flat outline gives you just enough structure to overcome the dreaded “blank canvas” while still leaving room for discovery.This let me spend more time on things that I enjoyed, such as writing for this blog and taking long walks through the woods. The ultimate waste of time when writing a paper is to write something that doesn’t even answer the question the professor is asking.Today, I’m going to share this process so that you too can write papers more quickly (without a decrease in the quality of your writing). Don’t be afraid to ask the professor to explain any part of the assignment that’s unclear.