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How to Write a College Paper: Sizing Up Your Assignment

Paper Size Visualization

Rules are made to be broken, but this tip can help you visualize a paper's length to estimate how many ideas you need to write your paper. This is just a suggestion - sometimes ideas take many paragraphs to describe.

In MLA formatting, 250 words =  about 1 page. The sample below is for a 1200 page paper, or 5 pages. 

How Much Time Will This Take?

Academic searching, reading, and writing (and editing) takes more time than texting your friends. There will be bumps along the way - contact a librarian and/or your professor if these bumps get too big. For a five page essay that requires use of 3-5 sources, plan on using at least two weeks. Everyone procrastinates - you have to learn your own style. 

These links will help you come up with ideas on how the paper process will go.


Do preliminary research before even thinking about an outline. See what's out there and if your argument can be backed up. Make sure you have enough to work with!

Always collect more resources than you are required. Odds are, some will just not work out or will not be relevant enough to your argument. 

Email yourself an article once you skim the abstract or first paragraph and it still looks good.