Different writing assignments require different amounts of time. The key is to figure out how much time to spend on each assignment—when to start, how to approach the component tasks, and how much time to allocate to each task.
For example, an exegetical paper is a longer assignment, in terms of both number of pages and time spent in research and analysis, than a book response or systematic theology digest. For guidance as to what particular assignments require, consult your syllabus, your professor, your classmates, and the Becoming a Theological Writer section of this website.
Create a writing schedule for each writing assignment; a good schedule will help you proceed steadily through the research and writing process so that you finish your work before the due date. To create a writing schedule for any project, follow these simple steps:
1. Identify when you need to have your assignment completed and ready to turn in. It is wise to give yourself a little extra time here, in case you get behind. Allowing extra time for computer crashes or printer malfunctions is also wise, so plan to finish a few days before the assignment is due.
2. List in order the various tasks you will need to complete from the beginning to the end of the writing assignment. These often include many of the following:
- Preliminary reading
- Choosing a topic
- Initial reading on your topic
- Narrowing your topic to a focused question
- Additional research related to your question and larger topic
- Conversation with professors and fellow students
- Analysis and formulation of a thesis
- Developing your argument
- Outlining your paper
- Creating a rough draft
- Revising your rough draft into a final draft
- Editing your final draft
- Citation, formatting, and bibliography
3. Estimate the duration of time necessary to complete each task. If you make realistic projections about the time required for each step, you can use these estimates to schedule the completion of the specific steps on specific days.
Accurately forecasting the time necessary for each step in the writing process helps you stay on track to finish on time. Be sure to allow adequate time for steps like sifting through your research to determine what is useful and dialoguing with classmates and professors.
4. Add up the total time necessary for all the steps, and determine how far ahead of the due date you need to begin your work. Because there will be more going on in your life than this assignment, allow extra time for other assignments, rest, special events, and unforeseen interruptions (e.g., car trouble, sickness, someone else using the reference book in the library the day you need it).
5. Beginning with your start date, identify the subsequent dates on which you should have each step completed. As you identify these dates on your calendar, be aware of other items in your schedule that might prevent you from meeting these deadlines, adjusting your start date to give yourself extra time as needed.
Other "Planning Your Project" topics:
Planning Your Project Home
Understanding the Assignment
Becoming a Better Writer Home