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An Effective Guide to Writing a Research Paper in One Night

It’s happened before and it’ll happen again: despite all the good intentions a student can muster, there’s always at least one paper pushed off until the last minute, and so now you’re here, in front of your computer at 10pm, looking to pull off a miracle before dawn. The pizza has been ordered. The coffee machine is on red alert. You’re trying to remember everything anyone’s ever told you about Zen. So buckle down and take a look at our top tips on how to survive writing a research paper in one night.

Step one: take a deep breath. We’ve all been there.

Calm down

It can’t be said enough: keep your cool. If you start to feel panicky, just stop whatever you’re doing, stand up and take a brief walk before coming back. Having a clear head is key, and even a little exercise can give you just that. If you know any breathing exercises, now would be the time to use them.

Keep focused

Choose a place that’s free of distraction – if there’s a vending machine stocked with Kit-Kats, you’ll be thinking about that a lot more than the topic at hand.

If you’re finding yourself short on willpower, don’t worry: there’s an app for that. Try a program like Cold Turkey, which temporarily blocks access to time-wasters like Facebook and Twitter.

Set landmarks

Before you start, set a couple goals that are linked to a specific hour. For example, you could perfect your introduction by midnight, write your main content by three, and tidy up your bibliography by four. Reaching milestones gives a quick dopamine boost and sets you up with the extra push necessary to keep going. Having a little reward at the end of big milestones, like a five-minute walk or a sandwich, makes it feel even better.

Just make sure your goals are realistic – nothing destroys productivity like discouragement.

What to leave on hand

  • Liquid: the only thing worse than a sleep-deprived brain is a sleep-deprived and dehydrated brain. Instead of reaching for the coffee, though, try for something lighter on the body - chai tea or mate are miracle-workers. Make sure to avoid energy drinks and sodas with high quantities of sugar – you can’t afford an energy crash halfway through the night.
  • Resources: as much as possible, try to have your sources on-hand before you begin. If you’ve already read the articles and books you need, having written little post-it notes with comments will jog your memory and help you make connections at a time when your brain is expending energy just staying awake.
  • Comfort food: if motivation is in short supply, a small pick-me-up can do wonders. Sometimes a little encouragement is all you need. Again, try to avoid stuff that’s high in sugar. Leave the cake and grab some salted peanuts.

The main thing’s not running yourself into the ground – yes, you’re here to get something done, but take care of yourself along the way and you’ll find yourself full of interesting connections to build into your work. There’ll always be another day to catch up on sleep.