The Paper

The standard social science paper is 8000 words long. If we assume 200 words to the paragraph, that gives us 40 paragraphs. That means a standard paper in the social sciences will say 40 things and support, elaborate or defend them. We might say, then, that you have to know 40 things to write a paper in the social sciences. The sooner you decide what those 40 things are, the easier your writing will be. If you write those paragraphs in formal “writing moments”, you can expect to write a paper in about 20 hours.

A a standard empirical paper can be divided into seven sections, with a certain amount paragraphs each. For example:

  1. Introduction (3 paragraphs)
  2. Background (5)
  3. Theory (5)
  4. Method (5)
  5. Analysis (15)
  6. Discussion (5)
  7. Conclusion (2)

These are of course rules of thumb, not to be followed slavishly. But they should give us some sense of the finitude of the problem of writing a research paper. The essence of planning is to appreciate your finitude.