My Academic Paper Is Too Short! Top 5 Tips for Serious Students (and 9 dumb tricks that never work)

Is your academic essay a bit short?

First, make sure that you have formatted your draft as required (usually professors ask you to double-space).

Faking a longer paper won’t make your writing any more persuasive or intelligent or analytical or factual. It won’t help you to learn what your instructor wants you to learn.

9 Dumb Tricks to Avoid

Avoid these junk-food solutions — they are quick and may seem attractive, but they don’t actually help you produce good writing:

Bad Example
  1. making the same point more than once

  2. making the same point, but in different words
  3. adjusting the page margins
  4. adding a blank line between paragraphs or quotes
  5. playing with the type size

  6. asking rhetorical questions: will doing so add anything of real value to your paper, or will it simply fill space with words? Does your paper actually attempt to answer the questions you raise, or are the questions merely there to take up space?
  7. making the same point more than once
  8. padding or puffing up or in other words using too many words in your paragraphs and sentences of prose, putting into play something that might in most cases be considered to be meaningless or otherwise questionable lists, groups, and series of words, all of them cooperating together to ensure that your paper never utilizes a simple word like “now” when you, as the author, could instead make a choice to utilize longer phrases, such as “at this point in the present time” or “in this day and age”
  9. making the same point more than once

5 Helpful Tips for Serious Students

In the limited time that you have to finish your paper, you’d be much better off if you made evan a little progress in some of the following areas:

Good Example
  1. expanding the opposing view
  2. adding an additional alternate view (from a neutral or surprising angle)
  3. adding another case study or example that pushes your own claim TOO far (and then explaining why your argument is not as weak as that extreme case)
  4. adding more evidence (without resorting to wordy summaries)
  5. making sure the conclusion answers questions like “so what?” and “why does that matter?” instead of “so, what was your point again?”

Another tip from a student — take a break! Coming back to your paper with fresh eyes will give you fresh ideas.

And okay, if you are dying to get a bit more apparent length out of a paper with no real work, you might (though I am not saying you should) fudge the line spacing from 2.0 to 2.1 or 2.15. Any more than that, and your instructor will probably notice. (Incidentally, for my own students I go by word count, not by page count.)

0 thoughts on “My Academic Paper Is Too Short! Top 5 Tips for Serious Students (and 9 dumb tricks that never work)

  1. I wanted to thank you for this advice! I’m attempting to finish a final paper and am about a page short, all the other websites are telling me to change the font size or skip pages. I was looking for actual advice that would help me rather than hurt, and wanted to let you know how thankful I am for this!

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