How to stay organized for an assignment

Hey my loves,

so as you may know I am a college student and am currently writing a term paper for one of my English classes and I thought it would be a good time to share my guideline on how to write a paper and stay organized while doing it.

Just a quick preface, this is a method that works for me and my writing style and for the style of my Uni. Please make sure that you follow the guidelines given by your University if you have any and use this entry to however it can be applied to you.

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1) Think about your topic. – What do you want your term paper to be about? Have you been given a topic? Write down anything in regards to a rough idea of what your paper should be about.

2) Write a to-do list. – What do you have to do and in what order? For example: Have you read the primary literature? Do you have any idea what secondary literature you could use? Write a rough time outline, when you want to have what finished.

3) Start researching. – Research secondary literature. Has your professor given you any tips? Do you remember literature that has been talked about in class that could be applied to your topic?

4) Class material – Go through your class material: Can you use anything from it? Write it down.

5) Write a time schedule! – Now that you gathered all your secondary literature, write down when you want to do the work. For example, by what date do you want to be through the secondary sources? Think carefully about how much time you can and need to spend.

6) Read secondary literature! – Normally I would read my text twice, but since reading for a term paper requires a lot of different texts that would just take too much time, so I make sure I read thoroughly the first time. I mark everything that seems important. If I have more than one topic I want to cover I use different highlighter pens. I also like to write down my own thoughts right beside the text or on post-its. This helps me not only to remember why I thought it was important, but also gives me an overview of the topics at first glance.

7) Write an outline. – Now that you’ve read all the secondary literature, you can think about an order to your term paper. What is the best order for your topic? How should you divide your different topics?

8) Write out citations! – Writing out your citations with page numbers, author and title into Office is really helpful for when you write later on. Bring the file into the format you are writing your term paper in and make sure that the citations are correct. I also like to organize them to the different topics, so that when I am writing later on I know where to look.

9) Go through primary literature! – Now for me that would be a book. At this point I am going lightly through the entire book again and make sure to find passages I can use together with the citations from the secondary literature. Write down your own thoughts on post-its or into Word, but make sure to write down the page number, so that you can cite it correctly later on.

10) Start writing! – Now I always like to start with the main part rather than the introduction, because while working through my main part I may notice that my original thought will not work out. By starting with the main part I can make sure that my introduction isn’t bound to anything or that I have to rewrite it, which would take up more time than necessary. I also like to start writing down just my own thoughts without any citations of the secondary literature.

11) Add citations from secondary literature. – When I’m finished writing each section of my main part I go in with my secondary source citations and add them where I feel like they do the best job. I then add why I picked this citation or why I think it’s necessary to point it out or even disagree with it, if necessary. But remember to cite them correctly!

12) Write your introduction and conclusion! – When I am finished with my main part I like to go straight into the introduction and then the conclusion. Between intro and conclusion I like to read my main part again just to make sure that my “train of thought” is “en route”!

13) Proofread! – I always read it in stages. First stage is right after finishing the main part, then I proofread my intro and conclusion and after some time I go back in and read it again. What I also think that helps a lot is letting friends or family proofread it, sometimes you cannot find all the mistakes, so it’s good to have some extra pair of eyes to look over your work. They can also tell you, if what you wrote makes somewhat sense.

14) Final Changes – After proofreading, I like to read it again, just to make sure I do not want to add or change anything. If I do want to change some things I will do that at this point.

15) Check citations and the entire work! – Now it’s time to check if all your citations are correct, that the format is correct and that you checked everything off of your to-do list and the restrictions you’ve been given.

Now, that is all I do to stay organized before and during an assignment. What are your ways to stay organized? Let me know in the comments. I would love to know.

I wish you all a wonderful day!

XoXo, Jasmin.

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