Down to the Wire? Quick Tips to Reduce Paper Panic -->

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Down to the Wire? Quick Tips to Reduce Paper Panic

By Kayla Skarbakka, Writing Consultant

Disclaimer: I’m not advocating procrastination here. As you’ve been hearing since middle school, time management is essential for academic success, and there’s no substitute for effectively budgeting your schedule to set and meet your writing goals. Manage time wisely, and you’ll save yourself countless headaches and heartaches.  
That said, Walden students have a lot on their plates. We tutors understand that. And I would be lying if I said that I always planned my time effectively as a student. I brewed my share of midnight coffee and shed my share of midnight tears, and in doing so, I learned a few tips to make last-minute writing a bit more bearable:
  1. Reread your assignment. It might seem like a waste of time, and you might think that you already know what’s expected, but reviewing your assignment criteria before you begin writing will ensure that you’re focusing your paper appropriately to meet assignment requirements.

  2. Construct a working thesis. Your working thesis needn’t articulate, but you should still have a good sense of the overall argument you’re making in your paper. Once you’ve fleshed out your ideas a bit, you can go back and refine your working thesis into a well-developed thesis statement.

  3. Draft a quick outline. When you’re in a time crunch, it’s tempting to skip prewriting and just jump into the first draft. However, having a sense of the overall structure of your paper as well as the flow of your key points will help you to compose your paragraphs quickly and effectively. You can also organize your research in your outline, which can save time in the long run. For example, if you know that you want to quote Smith to support Point A and mention Johnson’s theory to support Point B, try placing those citations right in your outline so you don’t have to go digging for them later.

  4.  Don’t start with the introduction. Odds are that you have a good sense of the arguments you want to make in your paper. Odds are as well that you won’t be able to think immediately of the perfect opening line. Don’t worry about it. Start writing with the point you feel most interested in or comfortable about. Get those juices flowing and some text on the page before worrying about how you will hook your reader.

  5. Focus on topic sentences. Topic sentences strengthen the cohesion of your paper by ensuring that your key points relate to each other and support the overall purpose of your paper. They can also keep you on track as you write. Try writing your topic sentences first, before drafting your paragraphs; having a few sentences on the page can do wonders to eliminate writer’s block.

  6. Take breaks, but don’t lose “the zone.” I like to schedule short breaks every hour or two as I’m writing. For example, in 15 minutes I will make a cup of tea. At 2:30 I will take a shower. Run around the house. Do some jumping jacks. Do whatever you need to do, then get back to writing!

  7.  Think you’re done? Not so fast. Take a break, and then read through your draft (preferably out loud!). Staring at those words one more time might be the last thing you want to do, but have confidence that even a quick read can help you catch typos, errors, and omissions. (I once turned in a paper I stayed up all night writing that I believed was a thoughtful, articulate, well-reasoned piece of literary analysis. The title of this masterpiece? “The Metaphysical Poetry of William Butler Yeast.”)

Of course, if you find yourself consistently pushing deadlines, you’ll probably need to evaluate your time management to ensure you’re giving your writing the attention it deserves. But the next time you’re singing the due date blues, try these tips to write your best, even at the last minute. 


  1. thank you for your useful advice

  2. Dear Kayla, is amazing how you talented thinking describe (hope none intentionally) my hesitate life! Your suggestions are more than simple tips. And I devote myself to offer seminars of time management. Congratulate you, grateful Carlos Calcador