How to Write Better Papers in Less Time: 5 Tips

Have you ever gotten an assignment to write a paper and thought, “I hope this takes me a long time?” I didn’t think so.  However, most students waste time and drag assignments out needlessly.  I’d like to present a list of the top 5 ways to save yourself time while writing your papers for school.

1. Eliminate distractions.

We do our best work when completely focused on the task at hand.  However, there are increasingly more distractions that keep us from staying on track.  Write a list of all of the distractions that typically lure you away from writing your paper.  My top 4 are Facebook, searching for things to buy online, answering texts, and checking my email on my phone.  Once you’ve identified the distractions, make a point to be more aware of when you let them get in the way of working on your paper.  You may feel like you are rewarding yourself for doing so much hard work, but you are just extending the time that you have to sit and “try” to work on your paper.  Say no now, and you’ll have more time later to do the things you really want to do.

2. Be deliberate and strategic when choosing a topic.

The first hurdle in paper writing is choosing a topic.  When thinking about a topic for your paper, ask yourself these 3 questions:

1. Will this topic help me show my professor that I understand the course material?

2. Will I be able to easily find enough resources for this topic?

3. Does the breadth of the topic correspond with the required length of the paper?

If the answer to any of these 3 questions is “No,” your paper will take you more time to write.

Be strategic, but don’t spend a lot of time choosing a topic beyond asking yourself these 3 questions.  Allow yourself no more than 15 minutes to choose a topic.

3. Don’t edit your paper until you are done writing it.

If you think you will save yourself time at the end of writing your paper by editing it throughout the process, you are wrong.  Stopping to edit will waste a lot more time than it saves.  Even if you don’t feel confident about your writing, force yourself to keep going.  Get all of the content on the page, and then go back and make changes.  Trust me, if you start and stop and go back, paper writing will be a very painful process.

4. Generate your “Works Cited” page as you write.

Every time you cite or use an article or book, quickly type the source down in the required format.  And don’t forget to take down the page number immediately! If you wait until you get to the end of the writing process, you’ll have to spend time re-finding every source you used – a real time sucker and an unpleasant task when all you want to do is drink a beer and celebrate that you’ve finally finished writing your paper.

For your convenience, here are the book and article formats for citing in APA and MLA:

APA Article:

Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (Year). Title of article.Title of Periodical,    

                  volume number(issue number), pages.

APA Book:

Author, A. A. (Year of publication). Title of work: Capital letter also for subtitle. Location:


MLA Article:

Author(s). “Title of Article.” Title of Journal Volume.Issue (Year): pages. Medium of


MLA Book:

Lastname, Firstname. Title of Book. City of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication.

Medium of Publication.

(Citation information is from the Purdue OWL.  Check it out for more detailed information about APA and MLA formatting.)

 5. Each time you sit down to write, write for at least an hour with no breaks.

People do their best work in unbroken, meaningful chunks of time.  Every time you take a break, you are pulling your thoughts away from the paper and adding a few minutes when you come back to refocus and get back to work. An hour isn’t that long, but it is long enough to fully immerse yourself i

n your paper, to the point where you gain greater insights and can really knock out a portion of your paper.  Schedule at least an hour to write your paper and don’t let yourself take any breaks during that time.

Try out a few of these tips and leave a comment below with your tips for saving time.


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