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Law School Writing Center

Getting and Staying Organized

Every writing project can be broken into chunks. Dividing a writing project into chunks is especially important when you have a significant amount of time to work on your project or you anticipate submitting a lengthy final product. Competing commitments and procrastination easily can transform a distant deadline into a looming one.

Plan backwards - Get out your calendar and identify when you must submit your final product. Determine how much time exists between that date and now. Set intermediate deadlines for each stage of your project; be sure to incorporate cushions, as encountering research roadblocks and unplanned obligations is inevitable. Make sure your intermediate deadlines are realistic; different stages of your project will take different amounts of time to complete.

Give yourself opportunities to step away from your project at various times to let your project sit before revisiting it; returning to your project with fresh eyes will help you spot areas in need of improvement that you likely would not have noticed otherwise.

Make lists - Project stages, types of resources to consult, individuals to interview (and questions to ask at interviews), sections of your writing project, references read, and editing issues all should be compiled into separate lists.

When you conduct an interview, these two questions always should appear at the end of your list: (1) Is there anything else I should know that I did not ask about? (2) Are there any resources you can recommend, such as additional individuals to interview or essential reading materials?

Every reference you read should appear on your list, even if you determine that the reference will not be useful. You do not want to waste time re-reading a reference, which can occur when you forget that you already had read the reference and do not record information about the reference in your list. Save yourself time by formatting your citations properly as soon as you add a new reference to your list.

Editing issues will vary from writer to writer; one person consistently may experience difficulty with parallel construction, while another person may struggle with ambiguous pronouns. Craft a list of editing issues you have encountered in the past and can anticipate tackling again in your new writing project.