Despite what some people may say, the time it takes to write a research paper is a lot more than just plugging in numbers. In reality, there are many factors that will determine the amount of time writing the paper.
- The research itself – not many people factor this in, but it is actually part of writing a paper and should be included in the time in order to actually plan one’s schedule. Do you already know the subject well? Do you have ready access to the needed sources? Also, are you able to concentrate the needed energy for this part of the process? A distracted or tired student may take 2-3 times as long to do research! Research includes culling needed quotes and citations, which always takes more time. You can also save time here if you type the quotes and citations into a document beforehand and then simply copy and paste later. For a paper of this length, research might take anywhere from 1 hour to a few weeks (especially depending on availability of resources).
- Outlining and planning – Again, an often neglected step of the process. Here is where you would form a concrete thesis and outline the paper into distinct sections. A 13 page paper is likely to have at least a few different sections (whereas something shorter, such as a 2-3 page paper may not have distinct sections at all, simply paragraphs that delineate ideas. There will also be time spent simply thinking about the paper and mulling over ideas in your head, and it is hard to quantify this part; for example, I may be in the gym exercising, but at the same time, I am thinking about a research paper that I am working on. This step will likely take 1-2 hours.
- Actually typing the paper – if you are well-versed in the subject and have an excellent outline, this can actually be a relatively short part of the process. If there is a lot of information, or you did not spend a lot of time on the first two steps, it is likely to take quite a bit longer. Depending on the situation, it might take anywhere from a couple hours to several days to finish this step. I’ve written 3000 word papers that fall into both scenarios.
- Revising – This is where you re-read the paper, focusing on ideas only. Do you reach your objective in the paper? Do you focus on your thesis throughout the paper? Ideally, I usually spend at least an hour on this step.
- Editing – Again, a necessary part of the process that is often neglected. It should also be included in the time it takes to write a paper. In addition, one should also include another person in this step. This is where the proofreading takes place. Your reader should take a look at it and so should you; never rely ONLY on someone else to correct a paper. After all, you might see something they don’t, or vice versa. This will likely take a couple hours, giving time for talking about the paper with someone, going over the assignment, etc etc.
Total time for a 3000 word research paper: 6 hours to several weeks, although more often than not, at least a few days.
So there you have it. By reading my answer, you should see that if you are well-prepared, a paper is likely to be a much easier and quicker endeavor. Of course, there are some factors you can’t control, such as availability of resources (I once spent three weeks for one book from inter-library loan). One factor you can control though is your own preparation. By spending more time preparing and outlining, you will spend a lot less time actually writing, and you will write a better paper.
Oh, I forgot to factor in one more thing:
Total time for a 3000 word research paper, taking into account time spent on time-suckers such as Quora and Facebook: 6 months to ∞.