How to Finish a Major Paper in One Night

Planning on finishing that essay in one night? Don’t. Already stuck with that situation? Well, you’d better read on.

A Sticky Situation

A party here, an outing there, a few rounds of games with friends everywhere… yep, in all that fun you’ve managed to completely forget that important paper you had to write for school. You’ve barely even started, and the thing is due tomorrow.

Cause for alarm? Oh yes.

You have two courses of action here. The first is to simply shrug, continue with your procrastination and receive that zero you’ve so thoroughly earned. The second, of course, is to buckle down and try to write the paper in one night. Not a great idea, and not advisable under most circumstances, but you don’t have much choice at this point – so how do you go about writing a paper in one night?

It’s tough. Really tough. You’ll probably be awake into the wee hours. You need to get it done, though, so brew yourself some coffee and get writing. You’ll need to take the following steps to have a hope of success.
Remedies for the Problem

- First, you need an idea for your paper. If you’ve only gotten that far and already have one, great. Otherwise you’ll need to narrow down a topic, and do so quickly. Having an affection for the subject is a good idea as you’ll find the writing easier, but at this point you can’t be picky. If the teacher supplied a list of ideas, all the better – go with one of those and don’t look back.

- Next you need research materials, and that probably means books. Lots and lots of books. Head to the campus library and drudge up every last piece of info you can find on your given topic. Even if the book only has a page or two on your topic, it’s still better than nothing – and may prove sufficient for a quote. Remember, once that library is closed, you’re cut off from info, save from the Internet – and its sources are dubious at best – so get everything you need NOW.

- Start reading as quickly as you can. Take notes so you don’t need to go back to pages too often. Be as efficient as you can and document everything. The less time you waste hunting down that same quote over and over, the better. A listing of pages that are most valuable to your paper is ideal. You should also create a bibliography as you go, so you don’t have to worry about it later.

- Assault the glossary relentlessly. You don’t have time to look at every little thing in a book. Track down the salient points and skip the chaff that won’t help you.

- Plan your paper. Create a quick, point form sketch of the thing, outlining where each of your points are to go. Writing blindly will give you a huge mess; planning even just a little bit, on the other hand, will result in a far superior end product. Make sure to keep your most compelling evidence until the end to leave the reader with the best impression possible.

- Start writing. You can’t put this off for too long. Get the thing dashed out as quickly as you can. Once you have, start to edit assiduously and mercilessly. Follow your instincts: if you re-read something and wonder if it might not be appropriate, cut it out immediately. You need to make strict decisions, not hem and haw over every little detail.

- Edit. Force yourself awake and stare at your essay. Then do it again in the morning. And again, before the class, to make sure you didn’t mess up anywhere. It’s quite easy to completely miss a typo when it’s 3 am and your eyes are filled with sleep. This is all easier to achieve if the essay is due later the next day – though at any rate you NEVER want to stop writing until you’ve finished the thing. Do so and you may not pick up where you left off the next morning.
Learned Your Lesson?

With any luck you’ll have something to hand in at this point, and it may even please your teacher. Rushed work is sometimes the stuff of geniuses. Hopefully not, however, for then you won’t learn an important lesson: do your work ahead of time. You may have scraped by this time, but your luck can’t hold out forever.

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