Creating Your Timeline

The prospect of doing a research paper can be daunting, and sometimes we focus so much on the research part, finding sources, that we forget that writing the paper needs to be part of the plan also. Yes, research will take up quite a bit of your time, so it is important that you manage time wisely.

In terms of the research project as a whole, you will probably spend

One factor to consider in planning your time is to know your teacher’s expectations regarding your paper’s length and the type and number of sources. Ask yourself these questions:

Planning your time

You should, of course, start your paper as soon as you get your assignment, but sometimes it’s not possible. Still, if you are given six weeks to write your paper, you should have your research question, sources, and working thesis done in three weeks.

Your timeline should look something like this:


Understand your assignment. Even if you know that you aren’t going to be able to start work on your research for a couple of days, immediately after your paper is assigned, you should do the following:

pie chart shows timeline breakdown: Planning:10%, Gathering and Reading Research 40%, Writing Your Paper 50%

Source: Pie Chart, IPSI

Once you understand your assignment, you need to write your research question and do the following:

Gathering and reading research—40%

Once you have got your working thesis, you will need to start gathering your sources.

  1. Decide whether you need primary sources.
    a. Plan your survey, interview, or observation.
    b. Contact the people you will observe, interview, or survey.
    c. Conduct your research.
  2. Take a trip to the library.
    a. Check out books.
    b. Find and print articles.
  3. Search the Internet.
    a. Find government reports, websites, interest group reports.
    b. Print your sources.
  4. Read your sources.
    a. Photocopy pages from books.
    b. Highlight relevant passages.
  5. Create a working bibliography.
    a. Use a style guide to gather correct citation information.

Writing your paper—50%

Planning your writing will be discussed in another lesson, but you will need to do the following during the writing part of your timeline:

  1. Write a thesis statement.
  2. Write an introduction.
  3. Write body paragraphs.
  4. Use the assigned style guide to ensure correct citations.
  5. Write the bibliography.
  6. Revise, revise, revise!
Black and white line drawing of the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland. He seems to be proclaiming something

Source: The Mad Tea Party, Alice in Wonderland,
Project Gutenberg

You can download a copy of the checklist.

A research paper is much more manageable when it is properly planned.