Two Cent Tuesday – Term Papers (again)

So, I have another paper to write this week. Honestly, I hate writing papers. It just doesn’t come naturally to me. I feel like I might overthink them too much or something. Anyway, I spent 7 hours in the library today working on this paper and have, basically, nothing to show for it. I’d say it takes me at least 10 to 15 hours to write an average paper. Is that normal? How long does a typical paper take you?



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Ryan Burns
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  • All depends on the topic and depth, but I aim at around 10 hours. For me it because more difficult and time consuming when certain constraints are placed, such as limiting an overview and critique of a certain theological perspective to a brief length like 5 pages. (If I have up to 10 pages it is somehow easier than only 5!) Is that true for anyone else? My most recent one, limited to only 5 pages, but with a presentation, was around 20 hours at least. I studied for me as well as much as “them.”

  • The research is always the most difficult part. Find solid sources and then finding solid quotes from the solid sources takes half of the time. Then another good chunk of time comes from finding where to put those good quotes. They are good quotes unless they are used in the right places within the paper. I find that these 3 steps are what make papers take FOREVER. I would say I take around 10 hours when all is said and done.

  • You know, it all depends for me on what the topic is, the length, and when I am writing it.
    If the topic is something that I am excited to write about it will take me longer to write because I want to cover the material really well.
    If the length is open ended it allows me to stop counting pages, and start writing for writing’s sake.
    If I am writing well in advance I can take my time and do a better job, but if I am on a tight (procrastinators) time table it will be faster and not as quality.

  • Jeff – I have the complete opposite problem… Length kills me. I think I’ve spent so much of my life trying to get to the point that I often feel like I’ve communicate what I want to say in less than the assigned space. So, my current paper is 15 pages and I’m currently at 5-7 pages and thinking… yup that’s about all I have to say…

    Tyler – Yeah… I read slow and research is all reading… I also find it difficult to get quotes when I’m orginally researching. Most of my initial research is trying to formulate my thesis or the point I want to focus on. Once I have that in mind finding quotes and good points is much easier.

    I’m currently working on a system that might be working for me. I research for several hours (5+/-). Then I take a day or two to mull around the paper in my head. I work on the thesis and different parts of the paper mentally (this works for me because I’m an internal processor). Then I sit down and FORCE myself to write the whole paper. The catch here is that I write fast and furious. I throw spelling and formatting out the window. Also, if I haven’t fully fleshed out a paragraph or thought I simply write one or two sentences and keep on rolling. Then, the next day I go in and clean things up with formatting and spelling and begin to flesh out the paragraphs that I didn’t have fully written.

    Well, that is at least my approach for the last two papers… also throw in a lot of complaining about how much I hate writing papers and you get the picture.

  • I usually take pretty good notes while doing research. I am in the middle of cleaning up a 10 pager that was over around 900 pages of reading. That means I have to condense alot. What I do is I try to write the whole paper in one page first. That way I see what my key elements are. Then i usually try to write the paper in half of what it’s required length is. I do this my going through my notes and making an outline. Once I have this done, it is a matter of filling in some small gaps and checking the flow.

  • I tend to take longer on the papers I care more about. Stuff like my Philosophy of Musc, evangelism, missions, or my position on a theological topic like women in ministry, that I will use over the long hall.
    But there are very few of those. Most other papers, book reviews with application, take less than 5 hrs.

Written by Ryan Burns