A research paper in a week? Easy as pie!


We’re talking about pre-packaged pies here, folks.

Hi again brains, thank you again for your warm welcome, I’m very glad to see that you’re such a lighthearted and humorous bunch. As much as I enjoyed your pickle jokes, I’m afraid I’m asking for advice right now.

The title’s a giveaway, really. I’m incredibly overdue with a research paper for my studies at uni, it’s pretty much my last big sprint before my bachelor’s thesis (the topics connect quite nicely), and so far I haven’t been able to write even half a page of it. Resources? Plenty. Topic/goal? Clear and set. I even did the actually dirty work of surveying over a hundred kids, so I have results to analyze as well. It’s the actual writing that’s my brick wall right now.

In all honesty - so far I’ve pulled through anything my studies have thrown at me, except research papers. I still have a very poor idea on how to actually put my ideas on paper in a well-formed, directed manner. I’m still stuck in this constant loop of “oh I could write about this” or “this idea should come before that” and when it comes to structuring an overall skeleton, I’ve got that covered. But the next step has so far been inaccessible to me.

I have talked to my therapist about this, and he’s given me some solid advice, but ultimately I keep freezing whenever I actually sit down and face the mountain of work in front of me. I don’t use any medication, currently, but I used to use Adderall, and it proved to be partially helpful (sans side-effects and emotional preparedness).

My current goal is to finish this paper within the week, the next at latest. So far, not very optimistic about it. But I don’t really have a choice.

Thankful and grateful to any brains who took the time to read this and perhaps throw some advice my way.


So you’ve got your skeleton? And you’ve done the research?

The skeleton/outline should help a fair bit. If you’ve sat down and worked out the sequence and the way you wish to present the info, you can start putting one foot in front of the other, filling in the blanks. Easier said than done, I know. Been there.

But actually starting will get you out of the inertia loop. Once you start moving, however slowly, you just have to keep yourself moving, and then your speed will start to build up.

It is so easy to be mesmerised by the size of the forest, when all you need to do to get started is single out just one tree, and knock it down.

So start small. But keep moving. 1mm per hour will build to 2mm per hour.

One thing that really does help, at least with your marks, is to follow their style guide. I can’t remember what it’s called, but the university will have a document which outlines their requirements for formatting etc. Make sure that you follow this exactly.

At the very least, it might give you a few hints as to how you should set up your framework. But my experience is that half of the final marks come directly from formatting, and giving them exactly what they ask for.

Disclaimer: I’ve never written a research paper before, but this advice is pretty generic.

So basically, just start. Get one word down. Then another. Then the first sentence will lead to the next, and the next.

Doesn’t matter if it’s all pretty rough, or doesn’t flow, sounds like rubbish etc. It’s all about building up momentum. Once your brain kicks in, it’ll take over. But the trick is to pull it out of the mud. You can always go back and change the crappy stuff, but at least get something down. Then something else.

Also, think about the research decisions you made. Why did you do this, and not that? What was your logic behind the choices you made? What are the trends you noticed? What were the trends you expected? How did they differ? Why?

You put the work in on the research, and you obviously had reasons for doing things the way you did. Why?

You need to recapture the motivation, and excitement. The drudge of the work will just stop you in the mud. You need to find excitement again, your dopamine needs to kick in and be re-associated with this project.

Forget about the forest, just tackle one small tree at a time. And then the forest will be a bunch of sawdust and Ikea bookshelves in no time.


If you can spare about 50 minutes, I urge you to watch this talk:


by the author of a book called How to Take Smart Notes. This may or may not help with your current paper writing but if put in practice, it can be of ongoing help. In the talk you will recognize how this technique can fits well with the common attributes we share. For example, we don’t begin at the beginning and linearly reach the end; we jump around, we switch context, we procrastinate when things get hard, we find connections and correlate things and so on.

The idea is to take notes as you read something and cross link them, tag them, evolve them. It is well known that the process of writing helps us retain knowledge better. This system goes beyond that by allowing us link and tag related information and later makes it easy to retrieve related facts.
Then by the time you get to writing the actually paper you already have fairly organized & cross linked set of notes such that actual writing becomes rather easy.

I wish I had known this system when I was in high school because for the longest time I used my brain to keep track of a huge number of things, make random connections & recognized patterns. Such a system would have taught me to write down things as I read books/papers/articles and then correlate them. And then I could go through these notes in any order I choose and may be even discover new connections. The problem with keeping things in head is you often forget some critical bit of information or connection.


What I would do, and this may or may not be helpful, is figure out all the crap I have to do for the paper. And then find the EASIEST part to write. And write that. And it doesn’t have to be good, it can be total shite. Just write it. Boom, done (for now). Then what’s the next easiest? Then I write that. And it’s trash. But it’s done. And so on, until I have all these shitty little paragraphs that have all the stuff I wanted to talk about in them. And then I edit the fuck out of it. And almost nothing from the first draft survives, but it inspired the rest, and it makes it easier to change something I’ve already written than to feel like I have to write it in the first place.

Set a pomodoro timer and do a shitty writing sprint on a point you want to make. Write the WHOLE 25 minutes without stopping and editing yourself. Then you can go do the thing that feels like it is physically pulling you away. Then go do another one.

Also, maybe caffeine? :grimacing:


I really liked this. Don’t know how to take away that flag I accidentally pushed :confounded:.