Strategies for Writing a 20-Page Paper

Follow This Step by Step Plan

Research papers and essays can be intimidating enough as an assignment. The long paper assignment, though, can scare students into total brain freeze. If you're facing a twenty-page writing assignment, just relax and break the process down into manageable chunks.

Make a Plan and Follow It

Start by creating a timetable for your project. When is it due? How many weeks do 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, including:

  1. Initial research. Before you can choose a topic, you'll probably need to do some basic research to learn more about the general subject area you're studying. For example, if you're studying the works of Shakespeare, you'll want to do some research to decide which play, character, or aspect of Shakespeare's work is most interesting to you.
  2. Topic selection. After you've finished your initial research, you'll want to select a few possible topics. Talk with your teacher before making a final decision. Be sure the topic is really interesting and rich enough for a twenty-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 Midsummer Night's Dream" might be just right.
  3. Topic-specific research. Now that you have a topic, you may need to take a few weeks to conduct research until you have five to ten subtopics or points to talk about. Jot notes onto note cards. Separate your note cards into piles that represent topics you'll cover.
  1. Organizing your thoughts. 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.
  2. Drafting. 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.
  3. Creating transitions. 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.
  4. Crafting introduction and conclusion. The next step is to write your introduction paragraph 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 have a rough draft!
  1. Editing and polishing. Once you've crafted a full draft, be sure you have enough time to 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.