Every student will have to write several term papers at some point in their studies. This assignment can look intimidating at first glance. Though, once you learn about it more, you’ll see how easy it can be in the making. So let’s see how to write a great term paper. Here is our step-by-step guide.
What Is a Term Paper?
Even before you start learning about how to make a term paper, you should learn what it actually is. So, a term paper is an assignment usually given at the end of your course. This work is similar to a research paper. However, in this case, your work should be longer, more nuanced, complex, and technical. Overall, this work should draw a line to the course you just finished and show how much you have progressed over this time. Students are expected to demonstrate their analytical skills, critical thinking, and logic. Also, it is a perfect opportunity to prove your time-management skills as this type of assignment will take you weeks to finish. Hence, you will need to learn how to schedule, prioritize, and distribute your time in the most efficient manner.
Also, be aware that various courses may set different requirements for your final assignment. Hence, you have to pay attention to the given instruction at every class you finish. Down below, we offer the standard guide on how to write a college term paper.
How to Prepare Term Paper
You have to come prepared if you want a perfect term paper. You can’t just sit and start writing right away, can you? Hence, first, you need to get everything ready for the work. Here are five stages you should do to get ready for work.
Pick a Topic
Choosing a topic is one of the most important and game-changing stages of your work. Pick a wrong topic, and it won’t matter how much you learned about how to write a term paper. Your work will not succeed, only due to poor topic choice, which, of course, would be a shame. So let’s start here. What is a good topic? How to make a term paper topic stand out among the rest of similar texts?
First of all, strive to be original. You should show that you can think outside the box, be creative and daring. An original topic would show that you actually gave it a thought and applied time and effort. Next, your topic has to be relevant and be important for the modern world. Hence, you should emphasize how the topic you have chosen matters and why it is important to discuss it. Also, the topic should be relevant to the course and be interesting to you. Try to find unique, unexplored angles to the issues you discuss and offer a fresh look at a situation.
Feel free to start with a few topics and narrow your choices down along the way. After all, you still have to do your research before you make a final decision on a topic.
First of all, you have to make sure that you can find enough materials on the topic. Seek appropriate data that will be relevant to the theme of your work. It must be accurate, reliable, and informative. Overall, no argument of yours can be without proper evidence behind it. So make sure you can find enough sources to support each and every statement.
Here is how to find your sources:
- rely on your teacher’s instructions (they tell you what references you can/can’t use);
- look at reliable academic libraries, starting with your school’s library;
- look for original sources (legal text, constitutions, historical documents, etc.);
- seek for relevant information (look for the newest pieces);
- pick only objective articles (biased articles will do you no good);
- pick authors and sources with the best reputation (BBC over a random blog);
- conduct surveys and questionnaires, if appropriate;
- double-check your sources if needed.
If any of your sources seem doubtful to you, better run them with your supervision or replace them with more reliable data. Remember, the quality of your research can define the success of your work. You don’t want to base your paper on poor research as it can undermine your whole project.
As your research is complete, you can move on to drafting. During this stage, you should write down all your ideas, arguments, and main points. See how they look together and whether they make sense. Make sure you're not missing anything. Approach your drafting stage with an open mind and playfulness. Try out some ideas for your thesis statement. Define the purpose of your work. See if you have enough background information researched and ready. Plan out your next steps. Draft topic sentences and see whether they look relevant, complete, or valuable to you. This is your time to play with the words and form a vision for your future work.
To learn how to write a good term paper, you have to learn about outlining. As you can already say, an outline is not your regular mid-course essay. This is one of the most complex and challenging assignments that you’ll ever do in high school or college. Hence, the preparation for writing should also be more serious and advanced. An outline will help you achieve that level.
An outline is pretty much the framework of your future paper. It’s yet rather different from a draft. A draft doesn’t have to have any precise structure, layout, or else. You can have numerous drafts and use all of them during your work. On the other hand, an outline is a rather strict process of writing, with a defined layout, order, and structure. It consists of all the main elements of your work, including the structure you will pursue, main ideas, and arguments. Hence, once you have an outline, you basically have your whole paper ready. Now, all you are left to do is extend and complete it.
Scheduling is also a valuable part of your writing experience. Quite often, students are more worried about how to do a term paper on time than about doing it. Time is everything here. It can be your greatest helper, our biggest enemy. The most common mistake here is to postpone your work and procrastinate until the last moment.
You have to schedule your work and give yourself enough time to finish and double-check. Overall, schedule in a way that you have a deadline for each part and element of your work. Start with picking and agreeing on a topic and end with editing. Once you have a schedule for each of those stages, you know what you are doing great with your timing or when you are behind.
The Essential Parts of a Term Paper
A term paper is similar to most essays you have written previously. Yet, it comes with certain distinctions in its format and structure. Hence, when you want to learn about how to create a term paper, you should learn about each of the elements that make it. Here are those elements.
Let’s start with the obvious one. Your topic is not the same as your title. The former should speak about the theme of your work. It informs people about what your term paper is about and what areas it covers. The latter, on the other hand, should be catchy, appealing, and intriguing. It should somewhat inform your audience what your work is about, yet it must have room for imagination. It should also sound interesting and inviting, so your readers feel good about opening the first pages of your work. You can come with a working title for the most part of your work. Think of the title when you finish the text. Just don’t hang up on it for too long.
An abstract can be an optional part of your work. Still, most often than not, this section is a necessary requirement in assignments like this. An abstract is the first block of text that your audience sees after the title. So, before everything else, it is responsible for making a good first impression. An abstract is a summary of your text. Hence, even though you put it first, you always write it last. An abstract should introduce your readers to the topic of your work. It must tell what you are writing about, the purpose of your work, and what discoveries/conclusions you have made during your work. It shouldn't be longer than one page.
Table of Contents
A table of contents is a list where you put all the sections of your work along with the page numbers. It does two things for you. First, it simply helps you organize your work and guide your readers through the text with ease. Secondly, it gives a glimpse of your work’s structure and content even before your audience gets a chance to read your introduction.
An introduction fulfills several crucial tasks for you. First, it presents your topic to the readers. Second, it explains the purpose of your work and why you think it’s important. At last, it draws a map of your future work. Thus, your readers know what to expect from the text below. Thus, your goal here is to execute all these three elements within your first few paragraphs.
Start by introducing your topic and outlining the theme of your work. Next, give some background information on why you find this topic interesting to research. After that, explain your thesis statement. Your readers should have no trouble finding your thesis statement, so make sure it stands out. It’s common to place it at the end of your first paragraph. Finally, explain what each chapter is about, including their main theme and points.
More often than not, you will be expected to write a literature review. This section should come right after the introduction. It must demonstrate the full scope of your research on the matter. Hence, it should have all the relevant sources to your theme and help you elaborate on the main idea of your paper. You don’t just present those sources but analyze and compare them with one another. The information they carry should not overlap but complement each other. Hence, you build your case based on the arguments and findings of other authors.
In the main body, you finally get to express your main point. Each section and paragraph must have a main point, background, evidence, and conclusion. Make sure that each paragraph has a logical transition into the next one. You need to keep your readers interested and invested. Hence, you must capture their attention with your writing style, logic, consistency, among other things. You need to build each paragraph around the main subject, making clear what your purpose and idea here are.
Overall, your main goal here is to convince your readers of your righteousness. These are the pages where your reader follows your flow of thought and finds your arguments compelling and reliable enough to believe you, or they go the opposite direction and stop agreeing with you. Your main body should have enough references to support your idea. Also, you should bring your arguments back to the thesis statement every once in a while to remind the purpose of this work.
As an author, you may have a call whether to have a discussion or not. Overall, it can be a nice transition between the main body and conclusion. During this section, you can offer an interpretation of the main arguments and evidence from the above. You can outline which of the arguments are new and which have been circulating in the academic world for years now. You can also explain if any of the findings or evidence contradict each other or have a controversial reputation. Overall this is the part where you get to shed some light and provide additional insight on the issue.
The golden rule of writing a conclusion is that you can not add any information that was not previously mentioned in the text above. Hence, you can’t operate on any new facts or arguments during this stage of your work. You had time and place for this in the main body. Now, you need to recall all those arguments, compare and summarise them. You have to bring the conversation back to your thesis statement and mention how you have managed to meet the expectations set in the introduction. If you did not prove your thesis statement, you should explain how that happened and what could have been done differently.
A reference page must have a list of all the sources you used in your work. Hence, every citation, reference, or data that you have mentioned throughout your work must be on this page. It means that you must be careful with all the citations you add and keep a list of your sources. Thus, when it’s time to write the final page, you won’t waste much time searching for every name or source that you have used.
A references page is always in alphabetical order, so it’s much easier to find the needed name in the list. However, the style of the reference page can vary depending on the citation style you have been using in the text. The three most common citation styles are APA, Chicago, and MLA. Each of these styles comes with its own rules on how to format a reference page and in-text citations. You have to follow these precise rules with every source that you have mentioned in your text.
An appendix can contain any supplementary information about the topic. You can complete a paper without it. However, if you don’t want to add too much data or other materials in the text and can do without them, you may use an appendix to share those materials there. An appendix can have information that helps better understand the issue, though it is not a prime source, so your paper won’t lose evidence without it.
Proofreading and Editing
Last but not least, you have to review your work. Remember, you are very far from being done even when you put the last dot into your text. You have to set enough time to proofread and edit your work. It’s best if you can do it at least several times before you send it out to your teacher. This way, you can have a fresh look at the text and catch little errors and mistakes that you did not notice while you were working.
Also, a good strategy can be sending out the file to your friends, so they can have a look at it and give you their opinion on the matter. They can notice things that you couldn't, like the absence of transition between sections, weak links in your logical statements, lack of evidence around certain arguments, or grammar mistakes that you might have missed. You can also ask for their genuine opinion and grow more confident about your work if they liked it.
Overall, make sure you have enough time left to read your text a few times and catch all those minor misspellings and mistakes. It may not look important enough to you, but trust us when we say nothing ruins a good impression as sloppy work. It speaks volumes about your lack of care and professionalism, even if you spend weeks writing the whole thing.
During writing and editing, you can also pay attention to small details that can turn your work into a great example of a perfect term paper. First, try to avoid using passive voice. It’s just a bad tone. Next, cut every word or sentence that doesn’t carry any importance to the text. You should be concise. Also, keep a formal writing style. Use appropriate terms, verbs, and expressions. Lastly, keep the same layout throughout your work.
Of course, all of these tips are pretty common requirements when it comes to any academic writing. Still, complying with these rules with this type of work means everything. As a term paper should demonstrate the professional growth of each student, every little detail counts. You don’t want to downplay your grades by not following the most basic academic requirements.