Strategies for Writing a 20-Page Paper

Follow this step-by-step plan to make the assignment manageable.

Young woman working on laptop and taking notes

damircudic / Getty Images

Research papers and essays can be intimidating enough as an assignment. If you're facing a 20-page writing assignment, just relax and break the process down into manageable chunks.

Start by creating a timetable for your project. Note when it is due as well as the number of weeks you have between now and the due date. To create a timetable, grab or create a calendar with plenty of space to write on. Then, jot down deadlines for each stage of the writing process.

Initial Research and Topic Selection

Before you can choose a topic, do some basic research to learn more about the general subject area you're studying. For example, if you're studying the works of William Shakespeare, decide which play, character, or aspect of Shakespeare's work is most interesting to you.

After you've finished your initial research, select a few possible topics. Talk with your teacher before making a final decision. Ensure that the topic is interesting and rich enough for a 20-page essay, but not too big to cover. For example "Symbolism in Shakespeare" is an overwhelming topic while "Shakespeare's Favorite Pens" wouldn't fill more than a page or two. "Magic in Shakespeare's Play, 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' " might be just right.

Now that you have a topic, take a few weeks to conduct research until you have five to 10 subtopics or points to talk about. Jot notes onto note cards. Separate your note cards into piles that represent topics you'll cover.

Organize Topics and Create a Draft

Order your topics into a logical sequence, but don't get too caught up in this. You'll be able to rearrange the sections of your paper later.

Take your first set of cards and write all you can about that specific topic. Try to use up three pages of writing. Move on to the next topic. Again, try to use three pages to elaborate on that topic. Don't worry about making this section flow from the first one. You are just writing about individual topics at this time.

Create Transitions; Write an Introduction and Conclusion

Once you have written a few pages for each topic, think again about the order. Identify the first topic (one that will come after your introduction) and the one that will follow. Write a transition to link one to the next. Continue with order and transitions.

The next step is to write your introduction paragraph or paragraphs and your conclusion. If your paper is still short, just find a new subtopic to write about and place it between paragraphs that exist. You now have a rough draft.

Edit and Polish

Once you've crafted a full draft, set it aside for a day or two before reviewing, editing, and polishing it. If you're required to include sources, double-check that you've correctly formatted footnotes, endnotes, and/or a bibliography.