The first high-school term paper used to be a sort of academic rite of passage, giving students key research and writing skills and helping them to succeed in college later. However, now it gave way to shorter, intermittent papers, presentations, and other alternative assignments, so many students don’t even know what it is until they start their first year in college, so they have to learn fast.
If that is true for you and you are baffled by this novelty assignment, this post will provide you with basic instructions. We shall cover the essential steps in writing a term paper, how to do the structure properly, and some specifics of the format.
What Is a Term Paper?
As usual, let’s start with a term paper definition. It is an independent research-intensive writing assignment required to assess student’s mastery of the course material. As evident from the name, term paper should be complete over a course of an academic term and must be closely related to concepts covered in a particular course.
Although term papers often involve research, it isn’t always so. Depending on a subject, term papers might require calculation work or any other practical task. The idea is to apply the skills and knowledge you acquire within a particular course. That is why term papers have such a big influence on GPA and, eventually, your degree.
How to Write a Good Term Paper
A term paper is a big project that spans several months. However, too often students underestimate how laborious and complicated it can get, so they neglect to plan it carefully and just hope they will finish it in one night. Sometimes, it’s quite the reverse – they are so intimidated by this feat that they keep procrastinating until the eleventh hour.
If you have found yourself in a desperate situation, don’t hesitate to ask professional term paper writers for help! With their experience, they can write a great term paper on an extremely tight schedule (within reason, of course).
However, if you apply yourself, there is nothing difficult about a term paper. Yes, it is voluminous, but you are given enough time to finish it. It does require hours of research, but if you start early, you will be able to do it without sacrificing your sleep. Here are the steps you should take.
- Read the syllabus: most instructors will provide the instruction as to length, format, focus, and recommended topics.
- Decide on the topic: make sure you have a genuine interest in the topic or a particular aspect of it. Many student get sick and tired of their topic by the time they finish the paper, but if you start bored – you won’t be even able to finish at all.
- Think your topic through: take time to make a final decision. Do preliminary research on the availability of information about your subject in libraries and online. Ask your instructor for advice on whether the topic is too broad or too narrow for a term paper and adjust it accordingly.
- Organize your thoughts and write an outline: this is a plan of your paper. It’s difficult to map the entire thing before you even started, but this is a necessary step. An outline will give a direction to your research and will reveal any faults and gaps in your approach to the topic.
- Start researching: this is an ongoing process, and you might want to revisit some of the books or seek new information right up to the end of your work, but it’s important to just start. Go to the library, befriend a librarian – they know a lot about different topics and where to find information on everything.
- Use varied sources: as a rule, a term paper should have 1 to 3 references per page, so your coursebook and Wikipedia will not do as the basis for your research. Use books, journal articles, essays, newspapers, magazines, videos, and the internet. Note that no more than a third of your sources should come from media and the internet (unless it’s an internet version of a scientific journal or official statistics).
- Cite sources properly: the first part of your term paper is a theoretical overview of the topic. Make sure that everything you write there is cited properly even if paraphrased.
- Back up your ideas: this is your independent work and your opinions are valuable! In the practical section, you will include your original ideas about the topic. However, they must be grounded in facts, observations, previously collected data, etc. Don’t just make guesses or unsubstantiated claims.
- Edit non-stop: proofreading for mistakes and grammar became easier thanks to automated tools, but you still must edit for style. Academic papers must be logical, informative, authoritative, and convey your ideas concisely and clearly. You have to develop this skill gradually. Edit each part of your term paper after you’ve written it and iterate later. Don’t leave editing the entire thing for the last moment.
Term Paper Structure
If we imagine all academic papers as a spectrum, term papers will be somewhere between a shorter research paper and a thesis. In fact, term papers are supposed to prepare you gradually for writing a thesis. They serve as an example of how to handle a paper of a considerable volume, rigorous structure, and meticulous formatting – with all the footnotes, citations, bibliography, etc. Meanwhile, term papers are smaller in scope and easier to plan and execute, which makes them perfect for training.
That is why the essential parts of a term paper mirror the structure of a thesis:
- The title page should contain your name, the name of the course, the name of your instructor, the name of your college, the date of submission, and, obviously, the title of your paper.
- Table of contents with the list of all the chapters and subdivisions with corresponding pages.
- Abstract with a short overview of your paper and articulated problem your paper sets out to solve.
- Term paper introduction should explain the problem in detail, why it is relevant, and what your research is aiming to achieve: to advance knowledge on a particular topic, to disprove a theory, etc. (objectives). For the benefit of your readers, add brief background information necessary to understand the topic and its significance.
- Literature review should contain a history of the problem with an overview of the most significant research done previously and the current state of things.
- In the methodology you explain your research methods and procedures you are going to implement to conduct your research and analyze data.
- The practical part is the core of your term paper. Here you explain your research process systematically, argue your points, lay out the computations, etc. If everything before that part explained what you are going to do, this part shows what you’ve done.
- Results should describe what conclusions you have reached and whether or not your research has achieved what it set out to do.
- Discussion includes recommendations for practical solutions that can be implemented using the information you have obtained or suggestions for future research on this topic.
- Bibliography (References) should contain the full list of all the sources you have used presented in alphabetical order. If the list is too voluminous, you can break it into the master list of references and auxiliary resources. Note that you should include everything you have used, even if you do not cite the source directly in your text.
How to Write a Term Paper Outline
Although the outline is only a roadmap for your research, some instructors will ask you to submit an outline on the preliminary stages of your work to understand your vision of the paper and approach to the topic. They do it to help you with recommendations and practical tips, so no need to worry about how to write a term paper outline. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just should give a clear idea of what you intend to do with your topic: which aspects you set to explore and which goals you have in mind.
Due to the differences between disciplines and subjects, and variations in the format required for each particular school, your outline will be unique for your topic. If you feel lost, use the structure from above as a rough template and feel free to tweak it to fit your line of thinking.
You don’t have to write anything under “Results” and “Discussion” rubrics – you haven’t conducted the research yet! Just put them as placeholders, so your instructor will see that you have a solid understanding of the structure.
If you have already done some research, put books you indent to work with under bibliography – even if there are just three of them. It’s a work in progress! Use this opportunity to ask your instructor for literature recommendations.
Term Paper Format
Each college has its own set of specific rules, so don’t neglect visiting your writing center and asking for guidelines. However, a good term paper will adhere to basic academic standard:
- Term papers should be uniformly formatted. Whether you have chosen APA or MLA style – stick with it.
- Term papers are usually 4000 to 6000 words long. If you don’t have any specific recommendations as to the length, use this as guidance.
- Use roughly 10 items or more for your bibliography. If you have less, chances are you haven’t been as thorough as you should have.
- Submit your term paper in print and/or in Word Doc or Open Office format. Even if you use some lesser-known word processor, convert the file before submitting it, otherwise you may cause inconvenience to your instructor.
- Show intellectual humility. If you don’t know how to start a term paper, you can never go wrong with acknowledgments. Mention people who helped you with your term paper and guided you. For example, your instructor, your librarian, or your classmate who gave you helpful ideas.
If you struggle with academic style, there is no better way to learn than reading some good term paper examples. Chances are, our vast collection has something close to your topic! If nothing seems to fit, you can always order your exclusive personalized sample from WowEssays.