Seminary will give you plenty of practice writing papers. By the time I graduated with my M.Div, I could easily write ten pages about nothing. (Some would allege that my sermons are exactly that…but I digress.)
Writing papers on the scale that seminary requires can be daunting if you haven’t done it before. Ten page and fifteen page papers are pretty common; even twenty-five page papers aren’t unheard of. Most undergraduate work doesn’t require the level of writing that seminary requires.
I highly recommend creating a writing plan for each major paper you’ll write this semester. Here’s how.
First, Break It Down.
To create a writing plan, begin by breaking down the project into manageable tasks. Make a list of everything you’ll need to do:
- Assess topic choices
- Choose a topic
- Get topic approved by your professor
- Find sources
- Research your sources and take notes on them
- Formulate a thesis
- Create an outline
- Write first draft
- Revise, and write final draft
- Format and print the paper
- Reprint if necessary and submit
The level of detail you choose is partly a function of how you think about the project, and how big the assignment is.
Second, Estimate the Time
Second, estimate how much actual clock time will be needed for each task in the breakdown, and write it down. For instance,
- Assess topic choices (15 minutes)
- Choose a topic (5 minutes)
- Get topic approved by your professor (5 minutes)
- Find sources (3 hours)
- Research your sources and take notes on them. (6 hours)
- Formulate a thesis (20 minutes)
- Create an outline (20 minutes)
- Write first draft (4 hours)
- Revise, and write final draft. (3 hours)
- Proofread. (30 minutes)
Your time estimates will vary depending on the size of each project and the pace at which you work. Watch yourself as you make your first estimates about how long each task will take. Very often, our estimates prove to be way off, in either direction. As you make note of how long these tasks actually take, you’ll be able to make more precise plans for future writing projects.
Third, Reserve the Time Now
Finally-this is important-reserve a block of time in your calendar for each task of the paper. You’ll want to begin anywhere from one to four weeks before the due date. I’d suggest that you plan to finish at least a couple of days before the due date. This will give some leeway if you fall behind schedule.
If possible, start the paper early. In some classes, you have to cover a certain amount of material before you’re prepared to write some papers, but not always.