Saturday, September 25th, 2021

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.

Using MLA Format by Purdue’s OWL

Using APA Format by Purdue’s OWL

Son of Citation Machine

Tools for handling your references and other source material

Decide on a system for keeping track of your references and other source material. The low-tech way to keep track of your sources is using 3×5 or 4×6 index cards. Use one card per source.

Note the source’s bibliographic information on the top of the card so you’ll have the information ready when you need to cite the source in your bibliography. Make your notes on the rest of the card.

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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.