Monday, October 3rd, 2022

Planning Your Paper


Word or page limit

Paper lengths can vary greatly. Knowing your page limit is vital to the planning process because it givers you some indication of the amount of time you will spend researching, the degree of detail that is required and how much time you will spend writing.

Step 1: Start with a list of themes and ideas you want to cover in your paper.

Step 2: Group the themes into sections. This will give you an idea about how your paper will take shape and it may help you see more clearly what you definitely do and don’t want to cover when you start writing.

Step 3: Estimate an approximate word or paragraph count for each theme to make sure that you meet the minimum word or page requirement. These numbers will probably change as you go along but it will give you a rough idea about the length of your paper.

As your reading, research and note-taking progresses, your themes will develop in your notes and you’ll see each section of your paper more clearly.

Due Date

Keep your paper’s due date in mind. Find out if you will have to turn an outline or a first draft sooner than the paper’s due date.

Think about each stage of the writing process (this is not an exhaustive list) and estimate how long each stage will last:

  1. Initial searching, reading and research (taking notes)
  2. Topic development
  3. Literature review
  4. More research, if needed
  5. Reference/resource management
  6. Data collection
  7. Writing
  8. Proofing and rewriting
  9. Printing

Paper Format

Make sure you know what style (AMA, APA, MLA, Chicago/Turabian or Harvard) you are supposed to use.

Low-tech Systems for handling references and other source material

  1. Keep a Record of Your Resources’ Bibliographic Information on this Table
  2. The Note Card System uses one index card per source.

    1. Bibliographic Source Cards:

      1. First, write each source’s bibliographic information on one side of an index card. Write down all of the components you need to accurately write a bibliographic citation for that source in the format style (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.) assigned by your instructor.
      2. Topic Cards: Write quotes, paraphrases and notes for that source on the other side of the card.

      Tips For Better Time Management & Organization

      Break your research paper into steps (see image below) and plan enough time to complete each one. This Assignment Calculator might help.