Hey, what's up guys?
So I just got my hands on some new books
and I am itching to read these things
but before I do, we do need to talk about
the opposite side of the reading coin, which is writing,
specifically the writing of essays.
Now the status of the essay as a cruel
and unusual punishment was hotly debated
at the formation the Geneva Convention back in 1949.
But if you bring this fact up to your teacher
they're just going to tell you not to believe
everything here on the internet
and you're still going to have to do your essay,
which is unfortunate because
among all the types of assignments out there
essays rank among the most time-consuming,
and you can take this from somebody
who basically writes essays for a living.
I mean I know I'm a YouTuber but every script that I create
is essentially an essay before I communicate it
in front of the this camera.
And even though I've been writing these
for a really long time, they're still super time consuming.
So what do I do today is give you some practical tips
for speeding up the essay writing process.
Now I do have to throw a qualifier on there
because if I don't then it really boils down
to two main tips.
Number one, type the same word over and over and over again
till you get the page requirement,
or number two, master plagiarism.
Both of which are probably not things you want to be doing,
so let's throw that qualifier on there.
Let's speed up the essay writing process
without sacrificing quality.
We'll still end up with something that is worth reading
and that communicates a well structured idea.
Now typically the formation of well-structured ideas
starts in the research stage, so let's start there.
When you're writing a research paper
the process of finding sources to back up your arguments
can actually be one of the most time consuming parts
of the project.
That's because no matter how many sources you have,
it's really easy to convince yourself
that your paper would be truly great
if you just got one more source
and then what you have that you want another one
and then another.
Carl Newport calls this research recursion syndrome.
You get stuck in this endless loop
of just finding source after source,
it becomes really easy to go down rabbit holes
that you think you're going to yield
really insightful information
but end up being completely irrelevant to your paper.
Luckily Newport doesn't just stop
at giving the dragon a name.
He also gives you the tools you need to slay it.
His book "How to Become a Straight A Student"
outlines a series of steps with some general rules
for avoiding this problem
while still getting the information you need.
To follow this process, first you venture
into the stacks library or the internet
and you find your sources.
Once you've found them,
you make personal copies of them and annotate those copies.
Finally you decide if you're done and if you're not,
you loop back to step number one.
Let's go ahead and call this
the efficient research algorithm,
since it's a logical set of steps
that are easy to understand and carry out in order.
But without flushing out this algorithm
it's hard to know exactly what you're supposed to be doing
on each step.
So here are a few details
that will make it a bit more useful.
First, when you're looking for your sources
start with general sources.
Things like broad histories,
views of the topic, popular science books,
these kind of books are easy to find
and they kind of gloss over everything within your topic.
That does make them not quite as good as specific sources
for finding arguments that you can use in your paper
but they do have bibliographies
and they do point to other works.
Specific sources, like we said, they are more powerful,
they're going to contribute more
but number one, they're difficult to find
if you don't know where to look,
and two, because they are so detailed
it's really easy to go down rabbit holes
that don't end up being fruitful.
So if you start with a general source
and use that to drill down to find specific sources,
you're going to be really efficient
in your research process.
Now before I move on I do want to say
that research in itself is a huge topic
so if you do want to learn how to do it more efficiently
and get some more tips
we did just publish an article all about library research
over on College Info Geek
and I'll have that linked in the description down below.
Moving on that second step of the algorithm
I find the easiest way to make copies of sources
that I want to reference later on
is to just take pictures of them with my phone.
And I do this all the time
when I'm researching for video scripts.
I'm the kind of person who likes to own my books
but I also like to write at coffee shops
and I can only fit so many books in my backpack,
so when I know I have a quote that I want to reference
or something that I want go back to,
I'll take a picture of it with my phone.
That way I have a good reference
of all the different sources that I'm going to use.
Lastly, when it comes to the question of,
are you done or should you repeat the algorithm,
you can follow Newport's rule of thumb.
First, list out all the arguments that you want to make
in your paper and then figure out which ones are crucial
and which ones are merely helpful.
For the arguments that are crucial
aim to have at least two good sources to back them up
and for the ones that are merely helpful,
one will probably do the trick.
Now when you're looking over your list
of crucial and helpful arguments
keep this mantra in mind.
Quality over quantity.
This applies to the number of sources you choose to use
but also applies to the number of arguments
that you choose to flash out in your paper because
unless there's some arbitrary requirement in the assignment
a smaller number of well structured,
always beat a larger number of mediocre ones.
And that might sound obvious in the surface
but it's important to note
that the inclusion of a mediocre argument
can actually detract from the entire paper,
even if the other arguments are good.
This idea of quality over quantity doesn't just apply
to the number of arguments and sources you're using
because you should also scrutinize
the actual words and letters that you're using.
What I mean by this is that when people know
they're writing an essay that's going to be evaluated,
a lot of them experience temptation to utilize
a cornucopia of abstruse, esoteric terminology,
contrapositive to the vernacular.
In other words people use big, fancy words
because they think it's going to make them sound smarter.
But this usually has the opposite effect.
In fact, a Princeton University Psychology Professor
did a study about 10 years ago that showed
that perceptions of intelligence actually go down
when people use needlessly complicated vocabulary.
Though, when you think about it, this is really common sense
and you don't have to go read a bunch of charts and graphs
to understand the point of an essay
is to communicate your ideas clearly.
As Karl Popper put it,
"If you can't say it simply and clearly,
"keep quiet and keep working on it until you can."
and honestly going into an essay without feeling
like you have to dig into the deep end your vocabulary,
will make the writing process a lot faster
because you're going to be writing
in the way that you naturally think and speak.
Now while the temptation to use complicated vocabulary
can definitely slow down the writing process
it is but a tiny speed bump
compared to the brick wall in the middle of the road
that is perfectionism.
Every time you find yourself staring at a blank page
or blinking cursor and just can't think of what to write,
perfectionism is likely to be the mean culprit.
But luckily there are some things you can do to get over it.
First and foremost I recommend
that you write your body paragraphs first
and save the intro and conclusion for last.
Your intro is where you going to introduce the topic
or the argument that you're writing about,
but going into the intro
before fleshing out the body paragraphs
is like trying to give a tour of a building
that you've never even been in.
You need to have a clear understanding
of each point that you're talking about
before you introduce them.
And the same thing applies to your conclusion.
Plus, choosing to go in this order
also makes it easier to get into the flow state of writing.
Because you know you're making a mess.
You know you're going to have to go back
and edit things later,
but when you start from a blank page
and you think you have to write the intro first,
it's really easy to succumb to the temptation
that you can do it all in one go.
And on that note it can also be really helpful
to separate the drafting stage and the editing stage
as much as possible can.
And there are lots of ways to do this.
You can block up different chunks of time on different days
for each stage of the process,
you can have different locations
and you can even work within indifferent apps
for the drafting and the editing.
And this is something that I love doing for video scripts.
I often do my research and my drafting over on Evernote
and then once that's done I'll move it over to Google Docs
for editing and final prep.
And I actually do something similar
with video recording as well.
When I want to get some stuff out of my head,
I'll often pull my phone out
and record something really casually
that I know I'm not going to use in the final cut.
And doing this takes a lot of pressure off.
When I'm filming here, there is a ton of pressure
because I know I'm probably going to use it.
This last step is pretty nuts and bolts
but use a citation generator.
There are a ton of these out there,
almost all of them are completely free
and they really speed up the process
of creating a bibliography or a work cited.
I remember having to do this by hand
back when I was a student and every time I would do it
I would have to constantly refer back to the style guide,
so I didn't make really common mistakes
like misplacing a comma
or accidentally summoning an elver god.
But with sites like Bibme and Citation Machine
you can put in the details of your sources
and leave all the formatting to the algorithms.
Now throughout this video
we've covered some specific tactics
that will definitely help you speed up the writing process
without having to resort to the potato trick.
But it's important to note that tactics
are exactly what these are.
And while the world's most prolific writers
definitely use them to some degree,
they aren't a replacement
for building more foundational skills
like thinking clearly and critically assessing your sources
and building logical, well structured arguments.
And while these types of skills
take a lot more time and effort to build,
they're going to speed up the writing process even more
and because you be thinking better
you'll also be writing better.
Now if you want to start improving your foundations
in these areas and learn something new at the same time
you should try brilliant.
Brilliant has an entire course
that can actually formal logic in depth,
but their platform will also help you boost your skills
in these areas more fundamentally
due to their hands-on, challenge based approach
to teaching math, science and computer science.
All the courses in Brilliant immediately push you
to actively start solving problems
which makes you think critically
and stretches your capabilities in a way that doesn't happen
when you just passively sit through lectures.
So whether you're learning probability
or digging in the classical mechanics
or getting a grip on computer algorithms
which is the course that I'm taking right now
you'll also be improving your general reasoning skills
as you progress.
And Brilliant also has an active community
where people can ask questions
and get feedback on the problemS they're trying to solve,
which really compliments their courses
because when you're stuck, it can be really helpful
to get an outside perspective.
So if you guys want to start learning something new
and stretch your capabilities, give Brilliant a try
with the link in the description down below.
And if you're among the first 200 people to sign up,
you'll also get 20% off of an annual subscription.
I want to get Brilliant a huge thanks
for sponsoring this video as their support
definitely helps to keep this channel running
but I'm also just a huge fan of their service
and their commitment to advancing STEM education.
So I definitely think you guys should give it try.
As always thanks to you guys so much for watching as well
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