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The Secret to Writing a Successful Academic Paper

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Writing an academic paper can be a daunting task. One way to get started is to develop a good outline. If you don’t know anything about the topic, first do some research before developing the outline. Read 10-25 resources (more for a longer paper, less for a shorter one) to see what has been said about the topic and decide where you want to go with it.

As soon as you have a general idea of what you want to say, draft the outline. Start with “Introduction” and end with “Conclusion” and then jot down the main points you are going to make to get from the one to the other. Presto, the outline is done! You can add subpoints as you go along or change the main points as your research develops, but the advantage of having an outline is that you have something to refer to as you research and write the paper. Some students find it helpful to write the entire paper in detailed outline form before writing it in sentence form. It will help to keep you on track and help you avoid wasting a lot of time.

If procrastination remains a problem after the outline has been developed, consider inserting mini-deadlines into the outline so that you won’t end up writing the paper at the last minute. Hold yourself accountable for the mini-deadlines by promising yourself a reward or by asking a friend or family member to text you on those dates to ask if you have finished the section. For example, if the paper is a 10-page research paper with three main points due on June 30th and you have one month to complete it, you could set deadlines of June 1st for the Introduction, June 5th for the first point, June 10th for the second point, June 15th for the third point, and June 20th for the conclusion. This will give you ten days to read it through as a whole, add in any missing research points, send it to a proofreader if you wish, review any changes, and submit it.

Happy writing!

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