The end of the semester is grueling enough, and the fact that professors mercilessly assign 10-page research papers left and right only serves to increase the stress of wrapping up a semester of hell. Research papers loom like it’s their business to generate enough anxiety to power a whole factory, and ignoring all thoughts of the incoming deadline and topic that you haven’t even considered only makes things worse. Unless you’re an English major, this is probably one of the 10 essays you’ll ever write in your career, but it helps to have a set of strategies that are going to help these couple of papers go as smoothly as is possible for you.
Honestly, even as an English major, I used to consider outlining a bad word. But, if you're someone who struggles with structure, outlining is going to help you organize your thoughts like nothing else. Your outline doesn't need to be a thought web or a KWL chart or any of the ridiculous designs that your elementary school teachers swore by. All an outline has to be is an organization of ideas, which means ideal outlines don't exist. They vary from person to person and an outline that serves you well for one paper might drive your next paper into a complete disaster. Consider your topic, consider your ideas, and remember that there's nothing formally required of a quick outline.
Transitions are going to help you take your thoughts and connect them so that your paper flows without sounding choppy. A good transition is going to be a sentence at the beginning of your new paragraph that ties your new idea to your old idea, much like the previous sentence of this bullet point has done. Your paper isn't a collection of randomized ideas, it's a conversation that you are having throughout the duration of those 10 pages. You don't interrupt yourself when telling your friend about your day by interjecting about an article you read in class last semester, so you shouldn't interrupt your dialogue about nuclear weapons with seemingly random paragraph about roaches. But...if you begin your roach paragraph with a comment about how cockroaches are probably the only insect capable of surviving a nuclear attack, your transition saves the day.
3. Broad statements
The other day, my professor voiced his desire to ban students from using the word "society" in their essay. What is society, who is society? The word is empty and being that vague and broad in your statements will only help you lose your audience. Ditch words like "certain" or "perspectives" and instead reference direct and concrete ideas. Figure out what you mean, and then say it.
4. Concluding with a thesis
One of the best things I've had said to me this semester has been that writing is thinking. The end of your essay is going to be significantly better than the beginning because you've spent your entire piece thinking about your subject, thus you're extremely likely to find your thesis in your conclusion. Pick it out and marvel at how damn brilliant you are for finding it...then pick it up, plop it into your introduction, and start your essay all over again.