How to Write a Great Term Paper in One Evening

If you’ve ever procrastinated like I have, you’ve probably had to research and write an entire term paper in one night.writing

It’s not the ideal way to write, but I’ve been able to write some of my best papers during this time. I’m not sure if it’s the adrenaline or what, but writing things last minute seems to be the muse that I need.

Anyway, if you ever find yourself staring at a blank word document at like 10 p.m. – and your paper is due the next day – this blog entry is just for you.

I’ve included an approximate time length for each step below. These are just approximations that will obviously fluctuate with your particular assignment. The purpose of setting times for each task is to quickly move your paper along.

Step 1: Relax Your Mind (15 Minutes)
Before you get started on this paper, I want you to relax your mind. This doesn’t mean grabbing a beer. It means calming yourself down and focusing your mind on the paper topic. You have one night to finish this paper, and you can do it. Turn on some classical music if it helps you stay relaxed and focused.

Step 2: Develop a Great Thesis Statement (45 minutes)
Alright, once you’re relaxed it’s time to focus your attention on writing a great thesis statement. Your thesis statement is what will keep your research and writing on topic. This is the most important part of your paper. Spend some time reading thesis statements in Google Scholar or whatever journal article database you have access to.

Use whatever you find as a springboard for writing your own argument. Make sure to save citations and quotes from any relevant journal articles you find.

Step 3: Write a Killer Introduction (15 minutes)
The way to start your paper with a bang is with a great introduction. You need an introduction that not only grabs the attention of your professor, but focuses the paper on the topic at hand. You should have one or two intro sentences, and then jump right into your thesis statement. If you can’t think of an introduction, simply use your thesis statement.

Step 4: Defend Your Thesis in a Brainstorming Session (30 minutes)
You should brainstorm a bunch of reasons why your thesis statement is true. Brainstorm for 30-minutes and think of every reason why your professor should be convinced of your claim. Write down the key arguments because those become your supporting paragraphs. Each argument is a mini-thesis that helps you support your paper.

Step 5: Start Your Research to Defend Your Thesis (2 hours)
Professors sometimes will give you a minimum number of references they want to see in your bibliography. That should be your minimum too, so make sure to list more than what’s required. Log into your college’s library database and start researching your topic.

This is the part that most people wast time, so give yourself just two hours to copy and paste your citations into your paper. Try to organize the quotations within an appropriate argument (from step 4). More than likely, you’ll find more arguments for your topic when researching. So add these arguments to your list.

Step 6: Time to Write (4 to 5 hours)
Select your best arguments (with supportive references) and use them as the introduction for your supporting paragraphs. Convince your professor that your thesis is true with strong arguments leading each paragraph. Write as if your professor was right there, and make sure to think of possible weak spots in your argument. You want to write a flawless paper, so keep your argument tight.

It’s easy to get stuck when you first begin to write, so don’t worry much about your sentence structure and argument process. Focus more on getting all your ideas down on the page. Just start writing, and use your main arguments as writing prompts.

Step 7: Think of Critics Would Say About Your Thesis (1 hour)
If you have time, make sure to cite what critics might say about your arguments. By responding to what critics say, you’re strengthening your paper by revealing that you understand other points of view. This shows you’ve spent some time thinking about the topic, and are prepared to answer objections.

Step 8: Summarize Your Thesis At the End (30 minutes)
When you’ve completed your paper, wrap it up by restating your thesis (with some support). Make sure to leave your professor with something to think about at the end of your paper.

Step 9: Cut the Fat (1 hour)
When you’re ready to edit, it’s time to eliminate everything that doesn’t support your thesis. Cut out passive verbs (to-be) and rely on action-oriented words whenever possible. Eliminate any sentences or paragraphs that slow down your paper or weaken your main argument. Make sure your arguments are clear and easily understood.

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22 Responses to “How to Write a Great Term Paper in One Evening”

  1. Wow. Well this is scary stuff, but if it has to be done, this is a good breakdown. I bet this is going to be a popular post in the long-term. Looking at search result stats for my blog, I find almost daily searches for things like “get paper written in one night” and “tips for staying awake to write essay for tomorrow”.

    Your suggestions beat the strategies of some people I’ve encountered with just a single night left to write an entire essay:

    Step 1: Panic (2-3 hours)
    Step 2: Have a cup of coffee to calm down (30 minutes, or more if possible)
    Step 3: Skim through a few books to grab some quotes that are vaguely in context (i.e. they mention the broad subject and sound quite clever) (2 hour)
    Step 4: Write a few paragraphs (2 hours)
    Step 5: Cry a bit and start deleting most of what’s been written so far (30 minutes)
    Step 6: Write some more, whilst repeating “I can do this, I can do this, I can do this, I can…I can…zzzzZZZZ” (3 hours)
    Step 7: Wake up and have a short panic (10 minutes)
    Step 8: Write as fast as possible, ignoring any paragraphs that don’t make sense (the rest of the night)
    Step 9: Pray that it’s going to pass and hand it in with a shaky smile and wobbly legs.

  2. [...] How to Write a Great Term Paper in One EveningĀ  [...]

  3. [...] How to Write a Great Term Paper in One Evening Mike over at Student Hacks gives a nine-step process for cranking out a term paper, fast. Whether or not you can actually hit the time limits he sets for each step (2 hours for research!?), the decomposition of the process is exceptionally insightful. [...]

  4. [...] How to Write a Great Term Paper in One Evening | studenthacks.org Student Hacks outlines a strategy for writing a good-enough paper in one night. Obviously this isn’t the best way to go about your studies, but if poor planning leaves you in the lurch, this approach might be just the thing your fat out of the fire.student writing termpaper hack research timemanagement [...]

  5. [...] How to Write a Great Term Paper in One Evening | studenthacks.orgStudent Hacks outlines a strategy for writing a good-enough paper in one night. Obviously this isn’t the best way to go about your studies, but if poor planning leaves you in the lurch, this approach might be just the thing your fat out of the fire.student writing termpaper hack research timemanagement [...]

  6. [...] How to Write a Great Term Paper in One Evening | studenthacks.orgStudent Hacks outlines a strategy for writing a good-enough paper in one night. Obviously this isn’t the best way to go about your studies, but if poor planning leaves you in the lurch, this approach might be just the thing your fat out of the fire. student writing termpaper hack research timemanagement [...]

  7. Haha great post there and those are actually useful techniques. The only problem is that the approximate times add up to a minimum of more than 10 hours and usually my ‘night’s aren’t ten hours long. If I had a paper due at 8am, that means I have to start it at 10pm but I usually procrastinate all the way until 2am.

    So my schedule goes like this:

    Step 1: Slap yourself awake (10 min)
    Step 2: Research on Wikipedia (1-2 hours depending on how distracted you get)
    Step 3: Write a beautiful first sentence leading into thesis (30 min)
    Step 4: Start talking to yourself and write down anything relevant to the paper (1 hour)
    Step 5: Email paper to someone that is online and more awake to proofread for spelling/grammar (1 hour)
    Step 6: Re-edit (10 min)

  8. wow.really good article and good idea especially to those who can’t sleep at night (like me)

    (Anyway, if you ever find yourself staring at a blank word document at like 10 p.m. – and your paper is due the next day – this blog entry is just for you.)

    but don’t forget to wake up early or at least don’t forget to submit your paper next day..

  9. Thank you for a good article. While generally not a good idea to write your research paper in one evening, sometimes it has to be done. I think your method is reasonably good. Thanks again!

  10. I tried this last semester and it really works for me! I got an A on my paper.
    ^_^

  11. Hazel Deisenbaum Says:

    I disagree with this method. Directing our research to try to fit a pre-formed thesis, chosen before you did significant research, is the wrong way to write a paper. It leads to a weak thesis, weak arguments, and difficult research.

  12. What’s with all the editing? Just write whatever comes into your head for as long as you can…when you find yourself repeating, that’s called the conclusion…Then go back and write a new sentence next to each written sentence and Print. Honesty, who cares your still going to get whatever job you were going to get out of college. Then again I go to Film school.

  13. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS. I didn’t do it in one night, though. Just one Sunday. Best guideline ever. God bless, hahaha.

  14. Martin Hughes, You really should stick to those creative writing classes. You are much too funny to have to hand in those silly term papers.

  15. This worked for me! This technique has saved me two times…I got an A on both papers!

  16. I read this any time I write a paper… Whether I have one night or one week!

  17. This is awesome all my dad says is Blah blah blah… but after reading this article it seems to me the best source on how to write a research paper ever! But my mom says irocrastinate all the time and I do but I always get a bad grade on things so this will probably help me alot. THANKS BOY!

  18. Haha this is good stuff. It’s not the best way to study, but . . . who am I kidding?! I procrastinate all the time!! That’s why I’m on this website. I wasn’t even looking this up. I swear.
    Great reply, Kevin X! It cracked me up!
    ~Rachel

  19. bronwyn alder Says:

    i will attempt this seemingly effective method of essay writing tonight.. but i have a gut feeling that the final product will reflect that of Martin Hughs efforts. the worst part is when everytime you look at the clock its like 7 past the hour until its like 4 am and your staring at the most wall blankly.. which is less productive than sleep. facebook causes massive procrastination to(as does this blog iv so innocently discovered). but just to throw a few more tips in there:
    - iv heard rosmary oil is good for improving memory..the ancient greeks used it… so it must be good.
    - also ‘charm’ your brain into enjoying your work by keeping the right side of the brain entertained by listning to music like mozart which is 68 beats per minute the same as your heart… and no lyrics because if your anything like em you will end up singing them and spinning in a swivel chair for hours.
    -have a break and do the washing up or have a shower because like your brain juices flow best at those times soi they say… ever noticed how you have the best convos when your washing up or think of the best ideas in the shower?

    yea maybe that will help people to stay focused?… but than again maybe i am not the most reliable as i am supposed to be writing an essay on predjudice and discrimination blah blah with women in australia and look where i eneded up HA

  20. Well this will definitely help me. I have approximately 5 hours to write my paper though… All the research and citations are DONE. Annotated bib Done. But still have to write the actual rough draft… We shall see…

  21. Eh, this is how I write pretty much every paper I’ve ever done. I go to SUNY New Paltz, and I’ve never gotten a grade lower than an A- on a paper. So I must be doing something right.

  22. Something of interest. If this thing really works and my professor doesn’t commit murder tomorrow (with me as his victim)… well, I’ll be interested.