If the assignment seems vague, it’s not because the professor is trying to trip you up.
Often, it’s that they know their field so well that it’s easy for them to think some things are “obvious”…even when they aren’t to us non-experts.
As I explained in my guide to library research, you shouldn’t spend more than 30 minutes per page of the final paper researching.
That is, if the paper is supposed to be 5 pages, don’t spend more than 2.5 hours on research (maximum).
Starting in college, I developed my own outlining technique that was much more effective.
As it turns out, my technique wasn’t so original after all.
Remember: asking for clarification because you don’t understand the assignment doesn’t make you stupid; what’s stupid is to complete the assignment without understanding it.
Yet, when I was an English TA in college, I saw this problem all the time.
Okay, so you have a rock solid understanding of the topic, you’ve done your research, and your flat outline is ready. But not so fast: where you write makes a difference.
Because after procrastination, the greatest obstacle to writing a paper quickly is distraction.