Skip Nav

Writing a Term Paper

Step Two: Your Topic

❶You will not fool the instructor or anyone else.

Step One: Set a Schedule

How to Cite
Forming a title for your term paper
Choose Topic

The very basic bones can be laid out early on, then you will fill in the details with research. Without an outline, you run the risk of writing a poor term paper overall. Look at some term paper samples to get a better idea of what your layout should look like. All term paper topics can be organized into a professional outline and this can help you keep track of all the sources you have, as well.

The end result will be a cohesive paper that flows nicely from one section into the next. The term paper definition is a long essay written on a subject based on the work done during your studies. The actual length may vary, but generally, term papers are around 5, words long, or between pages.

Every essay has three main parts, the introduction, body and conclusion. Follow this format as you write your paper to get off to a good start. This should cover your thesis and the reason for the paper in the first place. Why do instructors assign papers? Answering this question is a good place to start thinking about term papers because if you know why papers are such a common assignment, then perhaps you can approach the task with added enthusiasm and dedication.

Two goals usually motivate this assignment. One goal relates to the specific subject of the course; the other goal is based on your professional development. The first course-specific goal is to increase your expertise in some particular substantive area. The amount that you learn from this or almost any other course will be expanded significantly by doing research and by writing a paper.

The effort will allow you to delve into the intricacies of a specific topic far beyond what is possible in the no doubt broad lectures that your instructor must deliver in class. Your research will go beyond the necessarily general commentary found in this text. The second and probably more important goal behind a paper-writing assignment extends beyond the specific content of the course.

The object is to sharpen your analytic and writing skills in preparation for the professional career that you may wish to pursue after graduation. Do not underestimate the importance of such thinking and communications skills. Most professional positions that college graduates seek will eventually require that you find information, analyze it, and convey your conclusions and recommendations to others, including your boss.

You will be judged by your product. A survey of ranking business executives a few years ago asked them what accounted for the rise of their most successful young subordinates compared to the failure or slow progress of other junior executives. Communications skills was one of the factors most mentioned by the top executives.

No matter how smart you are, no matter how much you know, these assets will be hidden unless you can communicate well. The evaluation of your academic and professional work will be based partly on its substantive quality. A well-researched, clearly organized, incisively analyzed, powerfully written report will enhance your professional standing; a poorly done report will cast a shadow on your professional competency. It is also important to realize that your report will be judged in part by such standards as neatness, grammar, and spelling, and other such technical criteria.

It is not uncommon for university instructors to get papers that represent a good research and analytical effort but that are sloppy, contain numerous grammatical errors, are full of misspellings, or are burdened by other such technical deficiencies.

Such shortcomings make you look bad. It is very difficult for an instructor or, later on, your boss to be dazzled by your intellectual acumen while being simultaneously appalled by your English usage. Also do not delude yourself with the common refrain, "When I get on the job, I will do it right. That is true for rollerblading, shooting baskets, and playing the guitar. It is also true for doing a research paper. Now, in college, is the time to practice and learn.

Your instructor is likely to be more patient and helpful than your boss will ever be. Most successful efforts require some planning. Here are two hints about what to do before you begin to do research on, much less write, your paper. Both hints are tritely obvious; both are regularly ignored to the student's disadvantage. Your instructor will or at least should let you know what is expected.

Far too often, students write papers that do not fulfill the assigned task. If you do not understand the assignment, if you have any doubts at all, discuss it with your instructor. It is not uncommon in class or on the job for a person to get instructions, to not understand them, but to be reluctant to ask for clarification for fear of seeming "dumb. In the first place, your boss will probably not think less of you for asking for clarification.

In the second place, asking for supplementary instructions is far, far better than doing a report that does not meet the needs of your boss and is not what he or she wanted. That really makes you look dumb. Do not wait until the last minute. Last-minute efforts usually read like last-minute efforts! Plan backward from the date the paper is due to allow plenty of time to get it done. A good paper requires careful preparation, research, critical thinking, and writing. These steps take time.

Also, allow time for the unexpected. Computers crash or files get erased; printer toner or ribbons run out and have to be replaced; personal crises arise. You need to be able to cope with these and still get the paper done on time. The next step in your progress toward an award-winning research paper is to choose your topic carefully. If you are responsible for choosing your own topic, put some thought into this decision.

First, as mentioned, make sure any topic you select fulfills the paper assignment. Second, if possible pick a topic that interests you. The more interested you are in a topic, the easier it will be for you to devote time and energy to studying it and to writing about it. Third, ensure that you select a topic that fits the length of the paper that you intend to write, the research resources that are available to you, and your analytical tools.

Two Centuries of Constitutional Conflict," then your paper is destined to be "a mile wide and an inch deep," as they say. It is better to do something more narrowly focused and to do it well than to give a superficial treatment of a large subject. Trying to write a paper on "Secret Military Operations in the Persian Gulf War" would also be a mistake because the government has not released the relevant information.

You should take the holdings of your library into account. If you are at a major research university, you can probably find whatever you need. Even at large libraries, however, you may have trouble finding good sources to support a research paper on U.

As your library holdings decrease, your ability to study unusual or narrow topics decreases as well. So be careful not to choose a topic that destines you to fail.

If you are going to pick a topic such as "The Use by the Federal Reserve of the Discount Rate to Influence Monetary Relations," then you had better be sure you have the background to understand the complexities that you will encounter. Similarly, ensure that you have the proper statistical skills if you are going to analyze votes in Congress to see whether length of service, party affiliation, constituency interest, or the margin of victory is most closely associated with a senator's support of presidential proposals.

For all of these issues, rule number 1 here and throughout this writing guide is check with the instructor if there is any doubt in your mind. Indeed, it is a very good idea to write a paragraph on what you intend to analyze, show it to the professor, and get his or her reaction. Now the project begins in earnest. Good research is the foundation of your paper. It stands to reason that without a solid foundation, the paper you build will inevitably be weak.

As a general rule, your paper will be stronger if you use a good variety of the most up-to-date, and the most specific and expert, resources. The place to do research is the library. Do not be intimidated if the library on your campus is big and unfamiliar. Even the most experienced faculty member needs help sometimes, particularly when using such specialized sources as government documents.

The good news is that assistance is readily available. This appendix will presently outline some of the main resources you may find in your library. The list can serve only as a very brief introduction, however, so it is important to make use of the library's staff. When you get lost, as we all do, ask the nearest librarian for help.

Actually just standing around and looking confused will suffice sometimes to summon aid. When you are doing your research it is important to be creative. Here are a few tips:. Start out by reading a general study or two on your subject.

This will give you a broad grasp of your topic and will help you identify what is important and on what you need to focus your research. Simply jumping in and beginning to do research in specialized studies can often waste a considerable amount of your time. Textbooks can also be helpful. For many topics, one starting point might be a U.

A general introduction to international relations such as International Politics on the World Stage Rourke, might also prove helpful to gain an overview of a topic. Treat research like a detective story. Search under a variety of subject headings when looking for sources in the physical or computerized card catalog, in an index, or any other finding aid. If, for example, you are doing a paper on Vietnam, do not limit yourself to looking under "V" for Vietnam.

Look at the most recent books and journal articles first. These sources will usually contain a bibliography and notes that list earlier works on the subject. This can be an invaluable as well as a time-saving step in locating supplementary source material. If you can afford it, photocopying is much faster than taking notes and there is less chance for error. If you take written notes, use index cards. Larger cards are better than smaller ones.

Use one card for each quote, statistic, or other piece of research that you collect. Cards work well because they can be arranged easily. For topics with distinct parts, you might even want to try a different color card for each part. Some people use portable computers to take notes. If you do, be sure to make a backup copy on a floppy disk.

Make a careful and complete notation of the source of your material. Later on we will cover why and how to cite material, but there is nothing more frustrating than having to go back to the library to look up a citation that you should have noted clearly and completely in the first place. Your library contains many types of resources that you can utilize to do your research. The following list is a mere beginning.

Use it, but also go to your library, wander about a bit looking at its various sections and the resources that each contains, and ask librarians about what is available. You may be surprised at how many resources you discover. One of the most important places in your library is the reference room. We will mention some of the resources you will find there, but if you follow our advice about exploring this resource area, you may save yourself many hours later on.

The materials in the reference room are valuable resources for beginning to structure the basic outline of your topic. Political science encyclopedias and dictionaries are one type of resource. For an American foreign policy course you might wish to look at sources such as the Dictionary of American Diplomatic History Findling, or, at the most general level of political science, you might wish to consult The Encyclopedic Dictionary of American Government Dushkin, There are similar works, such as The Oxford Companion to Politics of the World Krieger, , that are global in scope.

Then there are resources such as Editorial Research Reports , the Political Handbook of the World , or the Index to International Public Opinion that deal with particular topics, give summaries of various governments, or take other specialized approaches. Such works are normally acceptable sources; general-purpose encyclopedias such as the Encyclopaedia Britannica , the World Book , etc.

Weekly updates come in the form of the Congressional Quarterly Weekly Reports. Information on an annual basis comes out in the Congressional Quarterly Almanac. Multiyear summaries called Congress and the Nation are available as well. These contain the basics of most U. Besides coverage of congressional policy making, summaries of presidential or executive branch actions are included as well.

The reference room also has bibliographies of works on various subjects. These are classified under "Z. They may save you time. Use your library's computer access system or card catalog for books on your subject.

A good place to start is with the Library of Congress Subject Headings for ways to cross-reference your search for books. In the Library of Congress system, most U. For economics, look at H; for world history, consult books under D.

The letter J encompasses most works on political science. As subsets, the letters JK focus on U. Military affairs are under U. It is valuable to know these letters because sometimes it is worthwhile to simply go to the stacks where those letters are shelved and browse a bit to uncover resources that you may have missed in your computer or card catalog search.

The shelves in the reference room are partly arranged using the Library of Congress system. Older books are also sometimes catalogued under the Dewey decimal system with the s and s of especial relevance to political science and history. Some topics, like U. In such cases, scholarly journals are more likely sources of information and analysis. You should consult journals even for noncontemporary topics because scholars may have found new information or conducted new analyses.

You should be able to find most, if not all of these, in your library's reference room. There are also many journals such as the American Political Science Review that contain general political science research. You may also find valuable information that has been published in a report of a governmental agency, in hearings or reports of a congressional committee, or in the transcripts of the proceedings of Congress.

The United Nations and a number of other international organizations also publish proceedings and reports. Besides, you can leave some issues opened for the further discussion. The style of a term paper presupposes much more than an accurate choice of words and avoiding short forms. It is about structure and format. We have discussed structure in the Outline section. As for the format, it is crucial to find out which one is required long before the deadline.

It is better to do it gradually and thoughtfully. For this purpose, you can use various tutorials and manuals, like YouTube videos, Purdue materials, etc. The format also influences citation. Credible quotations are obligatory to use, but there is usually a certain percentage of them that should be present in your text. So, you have to work with quotations and analyze them, instead of stuffing your work with never ending quotes.

Use only reliable sources and never copy and paste from different web pages. A term paper should contain the least number of stop words possible. Your sentences should be short and informative. You also should avoid passive voice and unnecessary massive grammar constructions.

Remember that your term paper is not about volume. It is about conveying proper ideas and quality research. Different students imagine proofreading differently. Unfortunately, some of them rely too much on new technologies. Grammar and spelling checkers are a great proofreading tool, but using them is not nearly enough for a good result.

A very small amount of students re-read their works at least once after they are finished. So, you may ask why you should do it if the majority does not. The point is that your teacher will understand you anyway, but let us not underestimate the factor of respect.

It is really disrespectful to leave annoying grammar mistakes and misprints for your teacher to correct. Besides, you really should evaluate how your sentences sound.

They may be correct but not laconic. You may need a proofreader because sometimes it is difficult to see your own mistakes. Your friends, group mates, or family, can help you with that. If you think that it is too much to ask for, switch papers with a fellow student who is writing a term paper too. This way you will be even. Your title should reflect the content of your work. Moreover, it should be as laconic as possible. The second part of a double title may sound more creative than the first one or contain a question.

You can ask other people for fresh ideas if you are out of them. How To Write a Term Paper. Academic level Undergraduate Bachelor Professional. Choose your Deadline date 3hr 6hr 12hr 24hr 2d 3d 6d 10d 14d. How To Write a Book Report. How to Write a Literature Review. Start a Live Chat with an Operator.

How To Write An Essay.

Language & Lit

Main Topics

Privacy Policy

A good term paper takes more than a little research. It requires planning, time management and excellent writing skills. With the right preparation, your essay will land you excellent marks. Get your hands on a term paper pdf or example of term paper for college before you have to write your own.

Privacy FAQs

A term paper needs to demonstrate that a student will go out into a working life well-equipped to communicate ideas, research, and present concepts in clear language. Now that you have acquainted yourself with the basic term paper writing tips and rules, you can check out our best term paper samples to link theory with practice.

About Our Ads

Download: Term Paper Example. How to Write a Proposal. Before researching and writing, you should know what a term paper proposal is. Basically, you should be able to defend your topic to your instructor through this proposal. This proposal must be handed in and . How to Write Term Papers. Getting Started; Choosing a Topic; Doing the Research; Research Resources; Organizing the Paper; Writing the Paper; Citations and References; Presenting the Paper; Writing a term paper is one of the most common requirements for an upper-division course such as the one for which this book was probably assigned.

Cookie Info

If you start writing your term paper now, on the basis of that plan, you'll have a lot more work to do than if you spend a little more time creating a decent outline. So let's fill this out a little. Term Paper . How to Write a Term Paper Type of paper: Term Papers, Tutorials Subject: Education Words: Writing term papers is a great opportunity for students to learn more about the subject they are studying. There are no doubts, term papers demand a lot of patience and knowledge. You cannot write the term paper founding only on your own opinion.