Consider the due date
When is the assignment due? Move that date ahead at least one day to allow time for events outside your control, such as a printer not working, password problems, lost internet connections or your computer deciding to corrupt every file on your hard drive. All of these things have happened to U of S students! Hint: always make a backup copy-or two!-especially for important papers. You can copy your file to your file storage space on PAWS, save on a USB stick, or e-mail the file to yourself.
- When deciding how much time to spend on an assignment, consider your familiarity with the material, the weight of the assignment and the difficulty of the class as well as how long it will take you to complete it. For example, it makes sense to budget three times as much time to writing a term paper worth 30% than you would in preparing for a term assignment worth 5% of your overall grade. However, you will also want to spend more time on the more difficult classes.
- The first time you do a new activity, you're facing a "double learning curve"-not only are you learning new material, you are also learning how to do a particular type of assignment. The first time you write a university-level paper, for example, you'll need to learn how to find appropriate resources, how the library works and what presentation format the professor expects. Allow extra time for this double learning curve. If you need some help in getting started, plan a visit to Student Learning Services for Writing Help.
Think about the steps to complete a larger project
For large projects-such as essays, term papers and especially group assignments, you will need to develop a project plan.
For example, writing a paper requires the following steps:
- Choose a topic - 1 day (Do preliminary research to ensure that the topic is viable, then narrow the topic)
- Research the topic - 10 days
- Prepare an outline - 1 day
- Write a rough draft - 1 day
- Revise the rough draft - 5 days (Do a final edit to check grammar and mechanics)
- Work on other projects while someone (i.e., SLS Writing Help, professor, tutor, friends, etc.) reviews the paper and offers suggestions for improvement - 7 days
- Complete the final revisions - 3 days
- Proofread and print - 1 day before
Checkout the Research Paper Planner on the USask website. It is a great system that will help you develp a plan for writing research papers.
Milestone due dates for each step of the project
Estimate how long each step, or milestone, will take, then work backwards from your due date, assigning due dates for each step of the project. You can use the Project Planner (PDF) template to keep track of this information, or you can simply record the steps on a file on the computer. (The computer file is more versatile than the paper version, especially if you happen to think of the necessary tasks in random order instead of chronologically.) More sophisticated project planners, such as Gantt charts, are available on the web.