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Law School Writing Center

Setting Dates/Deadlines for Yourself

Identifying the final due date for your writing project is merely the first step! Setting intermediate due dates and deadlines for yourself is essential.

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.

 

Submission deadlines should be set with your supervisor at the beginning of the writing project to create a structure for the full project timeline: statement of topic, summary of thesis, outline, draft, final product (plus additional submission deadlines as appropriate, such as submitting a draft to the Writing Center for review!)

 

Personal deadlines for preparing written work should be added, each with a buffer built in to re-read, revise, edit, and proofread before submission to project supervisor. In other words, if your outline must be submitted by March 5, you should set a personal deadline for completing your outline at least several days before March 5 to give yourself the opportunity to set aside your outline and then return to it with fresh eyes to re-read, revise, edit, and proofread your outline. You might discover gaps that must be filled, redundancies that must be eliminated, or other issues that you had not noticed previously. These issues will take time to fix carefully.

 

Conversation deadlines must be set as well. Do not plan to rely only on written feedback from your project supervisor unless your supervisor is out of town for an extended period of time. Speaking face-to-face with your supervisor allows you to hear immediate answers to your questions, obtain clarification and avoid misunderstandings, look over documents that might be difficult to decipher through emailed instructions, and consider tone and body language when receiving feedback. Schedule conversations with your project supervisor to discuss feedback on your thesis, outline, and draft. Do not devote significant time and effort to completing multiple stages of your writing project and then discover that your supervisor wants you to go in a new direction!

 

Writing an “editing memo” as you prepare to submit to your supervisor each version of your writing project can help you in several ways:

  1. You keep track of which changes you made recently, which changes you still intend to make (but perhaps did not have time to make yet), and which changes you considered making but ultimately rejected for a justifiable reason.
  2. You catch changes you had intended to make but forgot to make…and then either make them immediately or flag them for a later revising session.
  3. You make sure your advisor feels heard. Spending a significant amount of time and effort providing feedback to a student and then receiving a subsequent draft of the writing project that has not incorporated this feedback can be very frustrating. If you acknowledge your advisor’s feedback in your editing memo and explain why some comments have not been transformed into revisions yet, then your advisor can see that you have read and considered thoughtfully the feedback already provided.