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.
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).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.As Cal Newport explains, it’s called a flat outline.In Cal’s words, the flat outline works as follows: Isn’t this so much better?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.Demonstrating this level of engagement with your assignments can only boost your grade.Once you understand the assignment, you need to start researching. If you’re not careful, research can be one of the best ways to procrastinate.Starting in college, I developed my own outlining technique that was much more effective.As it turns out, my technique wasn’t so original after all.