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How to Write Essays and Research Papers More Quickly



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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,

well-thought-out arguments

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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