When do you start working on a research paper?

Professors hope it’s the day after you were assigned it or the next day.   Even if that’s not the case, they at least hope you don’t write a paper the day or 2 days before it’s due.  Yet, writing procrastination occurs a lot in college and graduate school.

Why? Research papers seem like an overwhelming assignment.

Writing a paper involves several high-level tasks: finding sources and evidence, analyzing research, taking good notes, planning and organizing how to answer a research question, writing a draft, paraphrasing, summarizing, quoting, revising and citing sources.

That list is intimidating.  Especially if you don’t feel confident about doing everything related to writing a research paper. It’s easy to see why students procrastinate, but it’s also easy to see how procrastinating impacts their grades.

Effects of Writing Procrastination on Research Papers

Writing procrastination is waiting to write until the last minute of a deadline or even after a deadline.  There are significant problems with putting off writing a research paper.  Some of them include:

  • Having a limited amount of time to research and find credible sources with evidence
  • Rushing through the organization of ideas and writing a quick draft without any deep analysis
  • Having little time to revise and strengthen areas of weakness in the content
  • Making mistakes in grammar, sentence coherence, spelling, and citing sources

These problems affect the overall quality of your research paper.  However, you can avoid these issues by conquering procrastination and staying on track with your research and writing.

7 Powerful Tips to Overcome Writing Procrastination

There isn’t a one day or one solution fix to stopping procrastination.  It takes commitment to change the pattern of delaying a writing project until there’s little time left to complete it.

There are 2 types of solutions for beating procrastination: short-term and long-term solutions. Short-term solutions help you plan and complete an effective research paper.  Long-term solutions improve your writing, so you don’t feel overwhelmed by any project you need to do.

How to Beat Writing Procrastination


Short-term Solutions to Research Paper Writing Procrastination

These 4 tips will make starting, and following through on a research paper easier.  You stay focused on one thing at a time so that you don’t you get scared thinking about everything you need to do to complete your paper.


#1 Create a Research Paper Schedule

The first thing you need to do is to create a schedule for the entire process of writing a research paper.  List all the writing phases and tasks you need to do to finish. Divide up the project into chunks, and determine how much time it will take to accomplish a phase.

Think about yourself and how long it takes you to do certain things.  You might find that it takes you longer to do research than it does to outline a paper.  Next, set up a regular time and schedule your days.

If you’re not sure about how to break down the tasks of writing a research paper, download my free guide, “How to Write a Research Paper That Will Blow Your Professor’s Mind.”


#2 Use a Timer to Focus

One of the best ways to stay focused is to use a timer and schedule work time and break time.  When you use a timer, you concentrate on your work and block everything else out.

Right now, I’m using a timer to write this blog post.  My preference is to set a timer for 50 minutes and take a break for 10 minutes, then work another 50 minutes and take a 20-minute break.

Other people use the Pomodoro Technique which is where you work for 25 minutes and then take a 5- minute break.  Each block of time is called a Pomodoro Cycle. You continue with the cycles until you finish your activity.

Try different methods and select your preferred timing period.


#3 Reward Yourself When You Complete a Task or Phase

Rewards encourage you to keep doing something.  When you reward yourself, you see and recognize the progress you’ve already made.

Give yourself little rewards for finishing each part of the process and give yourself a bigger reward for completing your paper.  A word of caution, rewards work on a temporary basis, as you complete something challenging.

Don’t rely on rewards as the only motivator for getting something done.


#4 Envision How You Will Feel When You Complete the Research Paper

Imagine what it will be like when you finish your research paper.  Visualize how you will feel, what the paper will look like, what you’ll hear and sense around you.  Do you see an “A” on your research paper or positive comments?

Create a vision that is vivid and detailed.  Take time each day to conjure up that positive vision.  It will inspire you when things seem difficult.

Visions are a powerful motivator. They help you stay positive and focused on your project goal.


Long-term Solutions to Research Paper Writing Procrastination


#5 Create and Stick to a Writing Habit that is Fun

When you build up a writing habit, you decrease the amount of resistance you have toward writing.  You will notice that writing seems less draining.  You’ll also fire up ideas in your brain and find it easier to express those ideas in writing.

Tips for creating a writing habit
  • Get a writing notebook or use a computer, tablet or another device to write.
  • Write on any topic you like without stopping. This could be a journal entry, writing down thoughts in your head, or a writing prompt that interests you.  Write about something that is interesting to you.
  • Focus on writing for 10 minutes a day. Do it every day for 30 days.
  • Use the same habit-forming approach you use to create any other habit:1) find a trigger to start your writing, 2) write, and  3) reward yourself when you’re done writing.


#6 Study and Practice Academic Writing Skills Regularly

You need to gain confidence in the different writing skills you think need improvement. There are key elements you want to develop in your writing like:

  • Summarizing, paraphrasing and quoting
  • Researching and analyzing evidence
  • Outlining and writing a draft with solid evidence and support for your thesis statement
  • Creating powerful introductions with specific thesis statements
  • Writing compelling conclusions
  • Using correct citations

When you master research and writing skills, you will not fear writing academic papers.  Get help from someone who will teach you how to develop those skills.


#7 Get Feedback on Your Writing Skills

Go beyond studying and practicing writing, and seek advice and comments on your academic writing.  Feedback is how you know what you’ve done well and how to keep doing it well.  You also learn how to improve your work.

Seek feedback from people who understand how to do academic research and writing.  You can join a group or work one-on-one with another person.  Find what is the best way for you to learn.


How to Beat Writing Procrastination

I always ask students what they struggle with when it comes to academic writing.  Most students tell me they feel they can’t write, and they put off writing essays and research papers until the very end of the deadline.

Procrastination worsens your problems with doing research and writing essays or papers.

You need a plan and strategy for beating writing procrastination, and you need to implement the techniques that will make you a more comfortable and confident writer.  When you know you’re writing is strong, you’ll be motivated to tackle anything ahead of you.

Do you want to be a confident writer who writes first-rate essays, papers, and other academic projects?

Join me for the Free Webinar: 3 Secrets to Excelling at Academic Writing and Succeeding in College and Graduate School and learn what you need to know to become an exceptional writer.

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