One of our new reading students, a high-school senior and honors candidate named Beth, had a block when it came to writing school papers. After putting off an assignment for weeks, she would finally begin to plod through the research materials at a snail's pace. Even a relatively short paper of four or five typed, double-spaced pages could easily require her to put in as much as two weeks of steady work to complete—if she allowed that much time for it.
More often than not, though, she would have less than a week and sometimes only two or three days available when she finally got started. As a result, she would typically stay up all night at least one night, operate under intense time pressure, and hand in a paper that was usually woefully inadequate.
In fact, Beth's poor performance on her written work was the major factor that periodically threatened to pull her down from her honors status. She knew that if she improved her grades on papers, she would be in contention for an even higher honors ranking than she now anticipated.
Beth finally lapsed into a state of near-panic after she received an assignment to write a paper at least 5,000 words long—or about twenty typed, doubled-spaced pages—on some topic of her choosing in her American history course. Detailed footnotes and documentation were required. Furthermore, the grade on this paper would count as one-third of her final grade for the course.
In desperation, Beth shared her problem with her Evelyn Wood instructor and asked for any help he could give her. At this point, she had attended several sessions of the Evelyn Wood reading and study course. But she couldn't quite see how the program was going to help her complete the paper that much faster.
In fact, though, our reading and study techniques can be adapted quite well to produce fast, supersonic writing on school papers. Here are the main stages in the research process that Beth's reading instructor described to her.
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