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I Love Term Papers – Said No Student Ever

October 07, 2015 - Posted toWriting

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I Love Term Papers – Said No Student Ever

Term paper writing is obviously something that most students just endure as they make their way through college coursework. And they often have to write these pieces on topics and for courses in which they have no interest – something that makes the process even worse. If you are typical and face a term paper for almost every course, you may be able to use some of the following information and tips.

What a Term Paper Is and Isn’t

Years ago, the “term paper” was something that as written at the end of each course, usually in high school, that discussed what had been learned. Over time, however, term papers got a new definition which makes them almost synonymous with research papers. Terms papers are like research papers but they are usually due at the end of the semester, and students are expected to pick a topic that directly relates to something that was studied in the course and to prepare a research paper on that topic.

Term papers are not glorified essays. They are scholarly works that require in-depth research, good writing, and that demonstrate you have become a bit of an “expert” in a small niche of the course curriculum. And if you are wondering why a good term paper is important, just look at your course syllabus. In most instances, they comprise 1/4 - 1/3 of your course grade. That in itself should motivate you to produce a good one.

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You Want a Good Paper – Here are the Steps That Will Get You That

There is a process for writing a term paper, and you probably “know the drill.” These steps, however, make that “drill” a bit easier for you.

  1. Picking your topic. It’s sort of like Goldilocks here. Your topic can’t be too broad and it can’t be too narrow – it has to be just right. Your instructor will undoubtedly have a length requirement, and that will somewhat determine your topic, but here’s a couple of hacks that will help you:
  • Pick a topic area that interests you. This may be a hard if you hate the class, but find something that is less bad than anything else
  • Once you have the area, get online and search for some sample research papers in that topic area. You’ll find a bunch but don’t you dare think about “lifting” one and using it – not smart at all. What you are looking for is a sample paper that is similar in length to your requirement, and that will help you narrow your topic pretty well.
  1. The research. Oh, what fun you won’t have conducting the research, unless you are really passionate about the topic. You will need to use what professors love to call “scholarly” source materials – this means no Wikipedia, no outdated books or journal articles, but instead works that come from reputable scholars in the topic field. You can Google this as well. Again, you probably have a requirement for number of sources. Here’s another “hack” or two that may ease this process:
  • You know that you are going to have to consolidate all of the information that you are collecting, and coming up with a way to do that and getting good sub-topics is one of the biggest challenges. Find a resource that is well-organized and has sub-topics already formulated. Use these sub-topics instead of trying to come up with your own.
  • As you take notes, yes, use note cards. Put the source and page number at the top and identify the sub-topic for the information you are gathering. Then put it in the pile for that sub-topic. When you finish your research, you will have a stack for each sub-topic, and this is a huge time-saver when you go to create your outline.
  1. That outline. Unless your professor demands that you submit a formal outline with your paper, use what works best for you. Each sub-topic will be a section of your paper, and each section will have detail that are found on your note-cards. If you have that one resource you are using as a skeleton, you can even use the same sequence for presenting the details.
  2. The rest you know. You write the rough draft, you revise, and you write the final draft.
  3. Format Style. Be careful to use the format style specified – instructors and professors have a tendency to get irritated when you don’t, and they will lower your grade for it.
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Do’s, Don’ts, and Common Mistakes

You know how to write a term paper. And you want a decent grade. So read through these extra tips to get that decent grade.

Do's Don'ts
  • Put big noticeable quote marks around it,if you are writing down exactly what an author has said, word for word
  • If you are unsure about a citation format, don’t risk getting it wrong – check a style guide or look it up somewhere. 
  • Use applications like Grammarly. They will even give you suggestions for fixing your mistakes.
  • Don’t ever take a paper off the Internet and think you can “spin” it and not get caught. 

Term paper writing will never be your favorite thing to do. But you can ease the pain by following the steps and tips here.

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