How Fast Can You Write

How long should this entire process of putting together a lengthy paper take? In Beth's case, with a 5,000-word research paper, here are some realistic time expectations. (I'm assuming, by the way, that Beth can type at a rate of about 40-50 words per minute.)

• Preliminary thought, including choosing the basic theme: 1 hour.

• Identifying relevant books, articles and other research sources: 1 day (5 hours).

• Compiling information: 3-4 days (15-20 hours).

• Reorganizing the information and drafting a master recall pattern: 1-3 hours.

Total elapsed time: 35-45 hours.

Now, this may seem a long time to devote to one paper. But remember: The written work in this particular case constituted one-third of Beth's grade.

Also, to research and write any paper of this length will take most serious students much longer than 35—45 hours, which is the equivalent of one intense week's work. Below-average students may devote less time, but they'll also get lower grades. I've plugged into this estimate the times required to do a truly top-flight job on a term paper.

As an alternative—and potentially an even speedier approach to paper-writing—consider the following "scroll" technique developed by one of our top instructors.

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