A lot of students find it difficult to write papers and get A’s, especially if they don’t have much time on their hands. There’s no shortcut to becoming a writing pro, but some strategies do help. We have great tips that work for everyone and will work for you just as well. Follow them to write your papers fast and get A’s too.
Always take notes when reading course materials
One of the strategies that help reduce the amount of time needed for a paper is meticulous note-taking. Some StudyTubers claim that they manage to get all A’s even without taking notes, but it’s hard not to question their sincerity.
Whenever college professors assign an academic article or chapter, I expect that I’ll need to cite it when I write my papers, so I use a highlighter and take notes. So far, this has been great for my paper-writing skills and grades.
How you take notes is entirely up to you. Some students prefer the old-school way and stick to a regular pen and paper. Others highlight and underline key passages in a Google doc or a Word file. Do whatever works for you.
But if you have yet to try note-taking apps, please give them a chance. They need some getting used to. But once you learn all the instruments and tricks available, you’ll appreciate the convenience. Tons of great note-taking apps are available, but my personal favorite is Evernote.
Start with an outline and bibliography
A lot of students neglect to outline. They believe that it takes extra time and isn’t really necessary. Well, they are totally wrong. In reality, starting an essay or research paper with an outline actually saves time and improves the quality of writing by a mile.
When a writer has an outline to follow, they can’t stray away from the topic, forget half of their ideas, or get lost in the sea of arguments. Without an outline, all of these problems are almost a given. What’s more, the writing process goes much faster with an outline. When I used to write my papers without one, it took me almost twice as long to finish an essay as it does now.
Also, it is better to have a bibliography ready before you start. This way, you won’t be tempted to procrastinate looking for new sources instead of actually writing. Try to stick to the ones you’ve found in advance unless absolutely necessary.
Use productivity strategies if they work for you
Productivity methods are not for everyone. It’s never a good idea to force yourself to stick to them unless they actually help you maximize your productivity. For example, when I write my papers, I never use the Pomodoro technique because I get distracted by once-an-hour breaks and can’t focus after I’ve taken one.
But all students willing to give productivity strategies a try should consider the ones that experts recommend, such as:
- Pomodoro technique. The Pomodoro technique implies taking a ten-minute-long break after every 50 minutes of hard work. It works well for people who struggle with staying focused for longer periods of time.
- Personal Kanban. Personal Kanban is adapted from the popular Kanban approach that most project managers use. Anyone who decides to use it will have to create a three-section list that features to-do, in-progress, and done tasks. Unlike the Pomodoro technique, personal Kanban works for most people.
- SMART goals. SMART goals are also an excellent option for almost everybody. They are less about productivity and more about efficient goal-setting. The idea is to set specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and time-related goals to stick to.
- Time blocking (for instance, 90-minute windows). Finally, time blocking is my personal favorite productivity method. It implies splitting the day into 90-minute intervals (or longer) and focusing on a specific task during each of them.
Don’t trust people who say that they are multi-taskers. No one really is; some are just more adaptable than others. In reality, humans are not multi-taskers by nature, which means that if you attempt to write a paper while switching to cleaning or Instagram scrolling every 15 minutes or so, your paper won’t turn out well.
So try to eliminate all distractions. When I write my papers, especially complicated or important ones, I mute all notifications and leave my phone in another room. Sure, I check it every 90 minutes or so but not more. Ideally, all students should do the same.
Alternatively, try studying and writing somewhere with minimal distractions. A college library is obviously the best option (as long as you can find a quiet corner with good lighting and no neighbors). But even a coffee shop can work for writers who are okay with background noises.
Get yourself a study partner
Finally, find a classmate willing to become each other’s study buddies. There’s nothing wrong with being a lone wolf, but not when it comes to motivation or editing. Sure, your study partner can’t help you with writing per se. But you can check on each other to make sure that neither procrastinates too much.
Besides, a study partner is a major asset when it comes to editing and proofreading. No matter how attentive one is, they can’t catch inconsistencies and logical flaws in their own arguments as effectively as someone with fresh eyes can. The same is true for grammatical mistakes and punctuation. If nothing else, the writing mechanics section of your rubric will look much better once you find someone to read your papers before you submit them.
No one knows the secret of becoming an expert writer overnight, but it’s possible to get better soon enough. Take notes while reading, don’t neglect to outline, choose the productivity method that works for you, avoid multitasking, and find a study buddy. Most importantly, write consistently and try to enjoy the process. If you do, your grades will go up in no time.