- By Jason Bacot
- Published 09/29/2010
A term paper is not something to be feared. Your term paper is basically your record of in-depth reading of several sources on a given subject. Working step by step in writing a term paper is the key to avoiding being overwhelmed by the task. If the topic of your term paper is not specifically assigned, you’ll have to choose a subject yourself, with the guidance of your instructor. Once you have settled on a topic, your first task should be to write a preliminary title for it. You may end up changing this title as you gather resources, but this will give you something to focus on. Your instructor may require you to gather resources and keep notes on index cards, and if so, you should follow those instructions. If not, and you find that electronic note-keeping is more convenient for you, consider using electronic note-taking templates such as Google Docs’ ENG4U Research Notes Template (found by searching Templates in Google Docs) for note gathering. Your instructor may have a specific outline he or she wants you to use. If so, stick to it. If not, or if an outline isn’t required, make a logical list of the points you wish to cover in your term paper, and number them. Once you have done this, go back to your note cards and pencil in which number on the outline each note card goes with. Your outline should list an introduction, a conclusion, and should list the major points you wish to cover in between.
Your introduction should start with a broad statement, then should logically progress t
o the final sentence of the introduction, where you state plainly what your term paper is specifically about. Your conclusion should recap your specific topic and the major points you have covered. From there it should logically flow to a more general final sentence, which should be similar to the first sentence of your introductory paragraph in breadth and scope. In between, you must cover each of the points in your outline, adding headings and sub-headings as required. If possible, let each draft of your term paper “rest” overnight, or at least for a couple of hours before editing. This makes it easier to recognize mistakes. Reading it aloud can help you find awkward sentences so you can revise them. Always make sure spelling and grammar are correct. Your instructor will probably give you specific instructions on how to cite the sources and how to format your bibliography, and you should follow these to the letter. If your instructor wants you to cite references from within the term paper through the use of footnotes, end-notes, or parenthetical references to the author’s last name, do so.
Proper citation of sources will do 90% of the work toward avoiding plagiarism. Plagiarism, or using the words or ideas of others without proper citation, will likely earn you a failing grade or other disciplinary action. Plagiarism is never worth it. Don’t worry that your own ideas are not as sophisticated as others’. Your teacher would much rather you state your own ideas, even if they are non-earth shaking than to steal others’. You’ll have a paper you can be much more proud of, too, if you represent your own conclusions.