Even as someone who basically writes papers for a living these days (like this article), I still viewed every college paper with a tinge of dread.
After all, writing a paper isn’t like working math problems or reading a chapter of a book.
I never created an outline with bullets and numbers and letters before writing the paper.
I always just made one up afterwards because I was to turn one in with the final paper.
As frustrating as those activities can be, they always seemed more finite than the monumental task of “writing a paper.” You can’t just open the book and start working: you have to brainstorm, research, outline, draft, edit, and add those pesky citations.
As I moved through college, however, I developed a system for cranking out papers in record time.
As I explained in my guide to library research, you shouldn’t spend more than 30 minutes per page of the final paper researching.
That is, if the paper is supposed to be 5 pages, don’t spend more than 2.5 hours on research (maximum).
If the assignment seems vague, it’s not because the professor is trying to trip you up.
Often, it’s that they know their field so well that it’s easy for them to think some things are “obvious”…even when they aren’t to us non-experts.