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How to Write a Research Paper in One Day

September 2020



Article by Elizabeth Bankston

Article by Elizabeth Bankston

Elizabeth Bankston is our staff blog contributor and the mastermind behind our content marketing efforts. Having spent 6 years at the University of Richmond, she now puts to practice her leadership skills and humanities knowledge to show students how to study more effectively and successfully.

You know you don’t suppose to do that. You know you should plan your big projects and give each stage of work the appropriate amount of time. You know you can’t really cook up something fast and easy the night before the deadline and still manage to impress your instructor enough for an A+.

You know all that, but here you are trying to figure out how to write a good research paper when you have only a day for it.

Well, life happens. Maybe you forgot. Maybe there were other, more pressing obligations. Whatever happened, now you need to work really fast if you want to hand your research paper in tomorrow. Luckily, with enough determination and a few hacks, you can pull it off.

How to Write a Research Paper Quickly

The first thing you should do is take a deep breath and relax. Panic is a bad partner. You will have to work fast, but to be productive you must stay focused and positive. You can do it. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to write a research paper fast.

Choosing a topic

Use whatever wiggle room you have to make this research paper close to something you already know about. If you have solid background knowledge on the topic, it will be much easier for you to compose a paper on the fly, researching only for some important details, such as up-to-date statistics.

If nothing about your assignment is familiar to you, at least choose a broader topic. This way you ensure there will be enough information available online. When you only have one day, you cannot afford the luxury of delving into some very narrow and obscure domain. All you can do is make general observations about something fairly well studied.

You don’t have to write something groundbreaking – decent is enough for the desperate situation and for the time you have at your disposal. It is still a legitimate research paper, only with a broader focus.

Doing the research

You have probably guessed already that the majority of your research will be done online. You don’t have time for libraries, so unless you already happen to have some paper copies handy, just don’t bother.

However, note that some instructors still require a certain percentage of your sources to be published books. Don’t worry! You can look up PDF scans on Google Books or find electronic copies in online libraries.

While you are doing your quick research, we hope you are putting every book you find on your list of references – better do it at once to save time later. Use an automated citation generator like CiteFast, MyBib, or Cite This For Me. This will save your oodles of time compared to manually compiling the list and formatting every title in one style (APA, MLA, Harvard, Chicago, etc.)

Outlining the structure

By skipping the outline, you won’t be doing yourself a favor. It only takes about 15 minutes but saves you more time in the end. Why outlining is important? Because it helps you to plan your research paper, so you could work efficiently and stay focused on one part of it at a time.

First, look on the assignment sheet for length recommendations. When you know how long your paper must be, you can estimate how many parts you should break it into and their relative volume. If you are struggling with structure, you may take a peek on the Wikipedia page about your topic. Don’t use it as a source and don’t copy anything directly (your instructor will find out and won’t be happy about it), but feel free to use it as a point of reference for your structure and a helpful overview.

Then, mind-map an approximate content of each section on a sheet of paper, using your notes. Here you go! You already have a rough draft, so now you can start fleshing out your paper.

Writing your paper

To write faster, start from the main part of your paper. Since the introduction and the conclusion are supposed to provide an overview of the entire paper, better leave them for the later, when the paper is ready. The only thing you definitely need is a working thesis statement – you must understand where you are going with this paper.

If you veer from it a little during the writing, you can always come back and tweak it – that’s why it’s called “working” – but you must have it from the beginning for focus and efficiency reasons.

While you write, don’t forget to cite all the sources properly, whether you quote them directly or paraphrase them. Even when you are desperate to finish your paper on time, there is no call for plagiarism. If you think it’s not humanly possible to compose a paper on a given deadline, the better solution would be either to ask your instructor for some grace time (usually in return for grade reduction) or to ask a company that writes custom research papers to write your paper for you just this time. At least, this paper will be plagiarism-free and written on time.

Wrapping up the conclusion

Too often students underestimate the significance of the conclusion, especially if they are in a hurry to finish the paper quickly. Of course, running out of time, being tired from writing the entire paper, it’s easy to see this part as redundant. After all, it adds nothing new – so why bother.

However, rushing through your conclusion is a big mistake. Why? Because guess what your instructors read when they are out of time and need to grade papers ASAP. The conclusion! If the paper is written well, the conclusion should give the gist of the entire research and sum up the most compelling arguments.

This is why you should write your conclusion with care. Summarize everything and keep your tone confident. Even if you are not sure that your paper is brilliant – write the conclusion as if you were proud of it. The “fake it till you make it” rule applies to college papers very well.

Proofreading your paper

Since you don’t have much time, use an automated editing tool to hunt down all the typos and grammar issues (Grammarly, Hemingway, etc). Then, proofread for clarity and logic. If you have a roommate or a family member who is willing to help – great! There is nothing better than a fresh pair of eyes to spot mistakes and inconsistencies.

If not, try to proofread it yourself after some time, for example, in the morning, right before the submission. First, your head will be clearer after you’ve had some sleep; second, you want to space the writing and editing out in time.

Bonus Tips for Master Procrastinators

Here are some productivity tips to make sure you won’t find yourself in this desperate situation ever again:

  • – Start planning your work as soon as you get the assignment, even if the deadline is very remote.
  • – Break big project into stages and put the “smaller deadlines” for every stage in your calendar.
  • – Keep a planner and allot a bit of time for all big projects every week. It’s too easy to get bogged down in little urgent tasks and keep postponing bigger papers.
  • – If you can’t make yourself work on the project, even when you’ve planned to, confront yourself and try to figure out what is holding you back. If you are aversive to many of your project, maybe you should revise your academic goals and switch your major to something that fits your interests better.
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