Get Smart, Not Desperate: How to Write a College Paper in Just One Night

Updated on March 5, 2018
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Cardia is a Barbadian University student who loves writing and helping others. Her topics include college experiences, DIY, and hair care.

We're up all night to get lucky.
We're up all night to get lucky. | Source

Procrastination is every student's worst enemy. Chances are, if you're reading this, you've slacked off somewhere along the line; now your deadline is near, and you have no clue what to do.

But don't worry - it is possible to produce an entire paper or essay in just one night. The key is keeping calm and figuring out the quickest and most efficient way to write what you need to say. This article includes an effective game plan with tips and tricks that you can follow to develop your ideas into a full-fledged paper, ready for submission.

1. Keep Calm

Panicking isn't going to help you at any stage of writing a paper, and certainly not at the last minute. Try to keep a calm and positive mentality. If needs be, set some soothing music to play in the background.

Write out any and all important ideas that you think can be included in your paper.
Write out any and all important ideas that you think can be included in your paper. | Source

2. Map out important ideas for your paper

If you're completely starting from scratch, the best thing is to form a plan of attack. What is the question you're trying to answer? How many points do you need to include to prove your stance on the topic? Which authors do you want to quote? Ask yourself these basic questions so you can start formulating how your paper should be written.

The use of a visual map or list is essential at this stage. Write out everything that pops into your head that can be used. Then begin to arrange everything in the order or sequence you think is best. The step after this will be to expand each point that you make.

3. Add in supporting information

Theories, theses, statistics, quotes—it's often mandatory to include info from outside sources to back up your statements or ideas. Check all your notes from class throughout the semester for anything you can use in your paper. If needs be, beg a classmate to see their notes too. Also, try to remember if you read anything in your class notes or research that could be useful. Don't forget to cite your sources.

If you didn't do the readings and research, don't worry—the fat lady hasn't sung yet. It's time to do some quick research, but in a smart way. Instead of attempting to read through entire chapters and textbooks, (frankly, this wastes precious time that you don't have) log into your favorite search engine and start looking for summaries and reviews of the texts that you should've read. Look up on answer sites for any similar questions that someone else may have asked that can help you.

However, it's important to remember - no matter how desperate you are, absolutely NEVER steal or plagiarize another person's work. Besides being dishonest, you run the risk of your paper receiving an instant fail grade. Professors can quickly pick up when students submit work that isn't their own, and there is even software available today that can detect plagiarism. Don't do it, it's just not worth it.

4. Write, Write, Write!

Now, this is the important part. Start expanding on all those ideas that you previously made, building on the supporting info from your class notes or Google searches. Create links between the pieces of information that you're including. If you're allowed to, add in your own opinions and theories. Don't bother if it is disorganized or the language isn't completely appropriate, just get all your thoughts and ideas out there. The more words that you produce (that make sense and tie in with the topic), the better.

Contrary to popular belief, all-nighters aren't all that efficient for studying or producing large amounts of work. Burnout is a serious consequence, plus putting yourself under so much stress in a short period of time is just not healthy at all.
Contrary to popular belief, all-nighters aren't all that efficient for studying or producing large amounts of work. Burnout is a serious consequence, plus putting yourself under so much stress in a short period of time is just not healthy at all. | Source

5. Take a Break

Pulling an all-nighter in coffee-infused beast mode actually won't do you much good in the end. This can result in 'burnout' and can enhance that overall panicky feeling, which isn't conducive to productivity. Take a few minutes every now and then to catch your breath and clear your head. Eat something. Watch a few funny clips on YouTube. Walk around a little bit. If time permits, take a nap for a few minutes (however, use this strategy at your own risk. If you know that you cannot quickly wake back up, it might be better to just skip the nap instead).

6. Edit

This is another crucial part of all academic processes. Take your raw writings and begin to edit, switching out simple words for more sophisticated terms ( and will never lead you wrong). Make your paper sound like you've been working on it for ages, and not that you just threw it together the night before submission. Professors and teachers always say that it's painfully obvious when a student hands in something that was rushed at last minute.

7. Read one last time

Before hitting the 'Send' button to your professor, proofread your paper one last time. Check for grammatical and spelling errors, or any times you may have accidentally repeated yourself. If possible, ask a friend to read it over for you.

When you're sure that the paper is satisfactory, send it in! Then reward yourself with some well-deserved shut eye.

Absolutely desperate? Here's a trick to make your paper seem longer

Here's a trick to help give the illusion of length to your essay or paper. High school and college students have been using it for years. You're basically going to be subtly changing the size of the full stops throughout your essay, which will fill out space a little more, and make your text body seem longer.

In Microsoft Word, hit Ctrl + F (Command + F for the Mac users) and when the search bar pops up, simply type in a full stop, then enter. It'll highlight all the full stops in your body of text. Click the magnifying glass next to the search bar, and choose "Replace". A side bar will pop up, showing all the times a full stop appears in your essay. Right click on the Settings icon (a little cog) and hit "Advanced Find and Replace...". A dialog box will pop up with various options. in the Replace bar, type in another full stop, and highlight it. Click the down (∨) tab on the left side of the dialog, and under the Replace heading, click 'Format', and then 'Font'. Change the size of the font up by one size (for example, if you're typing in size 12, make it size 14) Then click to apply the changes. You'll see a noticeable difference in the length of your essay!

The video below is a visual example of the same trick above.

If All Hope Is Lost... Ask for an Extension.

If all hope is indeed lost, email your professor asking for a possible extension on the deadline. Chances are, you may get some marks taken off for lateness, but it's better than not submitted anything at all. If you know that some of your classmates are in the same boat, rally together to ask the prof to push back the deadline. A group of voices may be more influential than just one.

Answer this poll!

Do you often use all nighters to complete assignments or study?

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    • ian 12am profile image

      Ian Batanda 

      20 months ago

      Thanks for sharing these Ideas. They look simple but can be really effective. I found myself behind schedules several times while I was still at college and used some of the techniques you have shared. Am glad you have laid them down in a way that's easy to understand.

    • torrilynn profile image


      5 years ago

      important information that you have here. thanks for the tips and tricks.


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