Facing the Giant:
How to Write a 10-Page Paper
· Why do teacher’s assign ten-page papers, anyway?
· Where to begin
· How to fill the pages without looking like you’re padding your paper
· Plus, helpful tips to creating your best possible finished product
When you get an assignment for a 10-page paper, do you panic? When I was in school, I used to see that prompt and think, “How on earth am I going to fill ten pages?” I also wondered why it was necessary to write a paper that long, whether the teacher would even read the whole thing, and how long would such a big assignment take me. Well, read on and learn from my toil and trouble navigating the waters of writing long term papers. When you’re done with this post, the task won’t seem so daunting. I promise!
Why Do Teachers Assign 10-Page Papers in the First Place?
Although I’m not a teacher or professor, what I have learned is that they assign long papers for a good reason. The practice is geared toward teaching students to compile a depth of information, as well as familiarize themselves with basic debate and argument styles which are necessary to develop critical thinking and reasoning skills. Your teacher knows that not everyone will turn in an “A” level paper. The point is to help you stick with a project for the long haul, learn how to research a topic in-depth, and formulate your thoughts in a logical, convincing way. So, while the longer papers aren’t fun, they are actually meant to prepare you for future challenges, conversations, and assigned tasks (after college).
Where Do I Begin with Such a Big Project?
In my experience, whether it’s required or not, an outline is a great way to break a big project down into more palatable bite-sized pieces. You know, the whole, “How do you eat an elephant” blah, blah, blah, right? So create an outline. Now it doesn’t have to adhere to any rigid academic model. Basically, you’re just taking a large idea and breaking it into subtopics or “sections” so you have a roadmap for the project. For example, say you’re writing about the impact Vincent van Gogh’s paintings on future generations of artists. You would want to make an outline that shows you when to transition from “Introduction” to the subcategories such as “van Gogh’s early years and influences,” “training,” “materials used,” “style,” etc. before winding down with a strong “Conclusion.” This is the point of the outline: to guide you from page to page until, before you know it, you’re finished. TIP: A 10-page paper is usually about 22 paragraphs (2 intro, 18 body, & 2 conclusion).
How to Fill the Pages without a Lot of Fluff
Step 1: TOPIC SENTENCES FOR YOUR PARAGRAPHS. Once your outline is completed, go through and add a topic sentence for each paragraph. This step will save you so much time. Trust me, this will be your saving grace. Once you have all of your topic sentences, you just made this paper 100% more doable.
Step 2: PLANNING YOUR INTRODUCTION (YOUR FIRST 2 PARAGRAPHS). In paragraph one, you will pose the research question. Usually, this paragraph will tell a brief story and then explain why that story needs interpretation. For example, “In 1833, Andrew Jackson addressed Congress, imploring them to view Native Americans as inferior to other races, which sparked the beginning of the Trail of Tears. Why did Jackson, and so many other white lawmakers, feel that Native Americans ‘must yield to the force of circumstances and ere [before] long disappear?’” Then, in paragraph two, you will explain how the paper will answer the question posed in the lead. The paragraph will end with your thesis statement: a one-sentence summary of your argument in the essay. TIP: REMEMBER TO REFRAIN FROM USING FIRST AND SECOND PERSON PRONOUNS IN YOUR TERM PAPER (UNLESS YOUR PROFESSOR EXPLICITLY STATES THAT YOU ARE ALLOWED).
Step 3: THE BODY OF THE PAPER. It can be useful to break down the body of your essay into three parts, each with a subhead. For example, Section I could state one side’s position in a debate. Section II could explain the other (or opposing) side’s case. Section III could explain how the conflict was resolved. Each body paragraph begins with a topic sentence that will support both the main point of the section and your thesis. (Remember, I told you how helpful the step of creating all of your topic sentences would be!!). TIP: AVOID USING REDUNDANT WORDS AND PHRASES, ELLIPTICALS, ABBREVIATIONS, & ACRONYMS!
Step 4: CONCLUSION (FINAL TWO PARAGRAPHS). Paragraph one will reiterate your thesis, outlining why it is the best means of understanding your evidence throughout the paper. Paragraph two explains why your chosen argument matters, and how the story you chose and your interpretation helps the reader understand your point. TIP: RUN YOUR FINISHED PAPER THROUGH GRAMMARLY BEFORE TURNING IN!