How to write a Term Paper - Format, Structure, Outline, Examples
Writing a term paper is not something that most people want to do. But it's a necessary part of education for almost every college student, and many high school students as well. It's also a task that some students will need to do in their professional lives after they graduate. So if you are one of those who must write a term paper as part of your educational requirements or post-graduation career move, here are some tips for making this process easier on yourself so that you can focus on the job you're trying to get when you've finished your schooling instead.
Choose Your Topic Carefully
Choosing a good topic is the most important step in writing any sort of essay, thesis, or research paper. A good topic will be something interesting to you, that is important to people other than yourself, and will allow you to find plenty of sources of information to support your arguments. Once you choose your topic, it's easy to get stuck repeating the same points over and over again in an essay, since you only have one narrow point to focus on. But with a good topic, there are always new angles from which you can approach your subject matter.
Consider Current Events and Trends for Your Topic
Try looking at current events or trends in society as possible areas for research papers. If everyone else is writing about a particular movie or pop singer, then maybe they're the wrong angle for a term paper while something less popular but more historically significant might be perfect. For example, if your school is planning to honor a particular artist, you may be able to get away with writing about that artist instead of the more popular thing in pop culture. The same principles apply to social issues, historical events, and other such topics. If you can find a less-popular topic but one that is still relevant or important enough to be considered for an academic paper, then go with it if it's something you're particularly interested in.
Divide and Conquer Your Topic: Focus on One Aspect Instead of the Entire Subject
If you think choosing just one aspect of something big like World War II as a theme for your term paper seems impossible because there are so many different aspects that could fill up an entire book, you're right. But there's a way to get around that dilemma. Instead of choosing one aspect, choose a few and look at them from different points of view. For example, instead of writing about the entire war (the "Big Picture"), focus on just one battle instead (or several battles if you have a big enough paper). Write about some small but important detail if it will make your term paper more interesting to write and read. That way you still have plenty of room for research materials without having to fill up pages upon pages with the same information over and over again in each paragraph.
Cite Your Sources Well
One thing that makes some students uncomfortable when writing papers is the need to cite sources properly. It's true that you don't want to copy someone else's ideas exactly, but it is necessary to acknowledge the work of other scholars when writing papers for college and professors expect their students to cite sources properly. To avoid getting in trouble with your professor over this (or being accused of plagiarism by another student), keep track of all the sources you've used while researching your paper so that you will have a list already prepared for when it comes time to write up the bibliography or reference list. You can also start the paper itself by including a short paragraph at the very end where you mention sources and give a brief explanation about why each source was useful (for example, "I used this book because...").
Include an Outline or a Sample of Your Work When You Turn In the Paper
While this may not be something you want to do (honestly, who wants to hand anything they've written over so that it can be torn apart by an English teacher?), including an outline or sample of your work when handing in your term paper shows your professor that you know how to organize information and make sure all parts connect together. It also shows that you are able to follow instructions properly without having to be told multiple times about what is expected and how the final project will look. Even if it makes for a boring example, simply copying out the essay itself with only minor changes (like substituting numbers for words) is better than turning in nothing but blank pages because you forgot, for example, to write the introduction or have one section that doesn't relate to any of the others. By providing something tangible (no matter how much you may hate it), you're avoiding a very embarrassing situation in which your professor has no choice but to assign a failing grade for not turning anything in at all.
Do After-Hours Research With Peer Reviewers
Your school may offer another service besides writing assistance through other students: reviewing completed papers before they are turned into professors or advisors in the student's department. If this sort of peer review is available for your coursework, then take advantage of it as soon as possible even if you are finished writing and editing your term paper already because getting feedback like that can help you identify mistakes or gaps in your research that you had no idea were there. Having another set of eyes become familiar with what will be required for a quality paper also helps to ease the anxiety of handing in something written several months before and not having it look like anything from the current semester.
Keep Everything Separate Between Your School Work and Home Responsibilities
Even though writing is part of learning, it's still work that has been assigned by someone and so it should never be mixed up with personal activities at home such as blogging or social networking, playing video games, watching television, etc., especially while other people are depending on you (for example if you have younger siblings). It can help to create separate study areas for each type of work that you need to do, or at least to designate a place in your home as the "office" where you write papers. It may seem like an unnecessary thing or something that will ruin your fun time, but it will help keep everything organized and make them easier to accomplish all at once.
What is a term paper?
A term paper is a paper of a certain required length written by a student on behalf of an instructor for a designated class. The purpose of the term paper is to demonstrate that the student has researched, analyzed and organized knowledge gained from books or other academic resources.
A term paper should show:
- Clear focus;
- Solid research;
- Good analysis/argumentation;
- Proper organization.
The format for writing term papers varies depending on personal preference and instructions given by instructors in their syllabuses. However, it will usually include:
- Title page;
- Table of Contents following the Abstract (optional);
- Introduction - containing your thesis statement (the main point you want to prove);
- Main Body divided into several sections;
- Works Cited page containing full bibliographical information on sources you consulted.
Table of Contents
The Table of Contents is an alphabetically arranged list of all major ideas organized in the paper. The Table of contents should be placed immediately after the abstract and before the body or main portion of the paper. It gives your reader a clear idea of what will come later, thus helping him/her avoid unnecessary skimming. A table of contents that is too long may appear to have better organization than it actually does; therefore, make sure you use discretion when deciding upon its length. An overly long table risks making your work seem less professional and much more tedious to read.
Abstract in a term paper:
An abstract/introduction should answer all questions that the reader may have concerning your paper. It is an overview of what will be discussed in the body of your paper. If well-written, it will leave no question unanswered for a reader and will provide some idea of why it is important to read on.
A good abstract:
- Is not more than 150 words long;
- Gives most relevant information without including unnecessary details;
- Emphasizes main points;
- Contains a series of brief statements;
Body or Main Part of a Term Paper:
The body of a term paper should present evidence to prove your thesis. It generally contains three parts:
- Introduction (main point of the work);
- Argumentation (supporting points 1, 2, 3,...);
- Conclusion (summary).
Introduction: Introduction is meant to build readers' interest and convince them that the topic has enough importance for further study. The introduction should be short (3-5 sentences) and contain a clearly defined statement of what you plan to prove or discuss in your paper. Your main idea should be clear from this section and it must accurately reflect the focus for the rest of your paper.
For example, if you want to write about how Americans have come to view Columbus Day as a federal holiday, but you also think that the holiday has been becoming less popular over time, it will be appropriate to conclude this overview with a statement like "This paper will discuss how Columbus Day became a federal holiday and what factors have contributed to its growing unpopularity."
Argumentation: Argumentation is meant as an explanation of reasons for your position. It should provide detailed, concrete evidence to support your main idea. Do not just make general statements that can easily be challenged by careful readers — instead, back up those statements with reliable facts and statistics (quotations are also permitted in this section). You may begin each point in the argumentation section with either a sentence or only one word if the transition between ideas within sections of the work is clear.
Conclusion: Conclusion is meant to summarize briefly what has been discussed in your paper. It should be longer than the introduction, but not so long as to outdo the rest of your work. You may use a number of techniques in this section:
- Simply re-stating main thesis statement from the introduction (but in a slightly different way — perhaps stating it more clearly);
- Explaining why this topic is important;
- Presenting statistics on overall importance;
- Making an appeal for people or institutions to act on this information (for example: presenting evidence that students have changed their minds about Columbus Day).
Works Cited Page: The works cited page must contain all sources used in order to support your theses and is placed at the end of a term paper. Sources cited should be used only as evidence to prove your thesis or points made in your work; they must not be included simply to quote someone else's thoughts or opinions.
How to write a term paper step by step
Here are the steps involved in pre-writing a term paper:
- Identify a great topic.
- Discover what information is available on your chosen topic using indexes, referral librarians and the library catalog. The Internet is also a good starting point for locating more current information than you can find in printed books and journals.
- Collect all secondary sources of information (books, articles, etc.) that are related to your subject. Secondary sources will be used to write annotations about material in your research collection.
- Decide how many sources you need for each annotation or paragraph by keeping two things in mind: 1) that no more than 20% of the pages you read should come from one source, and 2) that at least half of your sources must be from items published since 1993. Keep track of your sources using a bibliographic database like Endnote.
- Make an annotated bibliography for each source. Annotating your secondary sources means labeling information with such identifiers as author, title, subject headings (including keywords), call numbers and page numbers so that you can easily go back to it when you're writing later drafts of your paper.
- Find more information by going to the library's reading room or special collections. These are areas where only researchers are allowed to go; they contain materials designated by the library as rare and valuable in terms of research.
- Make a plan for collecting all material or information related to your topic, for example, making an outline. An outline is a tool for writing papers by organizing your thoughts about a topic into main ideas and subtopics such as the body of an essay.
- Find additional sources of primary material (letters, diaries, photographs). Primary sources are original materials that provide information firsthand about events or experiences.
- Make photocopies of valuable items in your collection to use in the library rather than haul everything back and forth.
- Take notes on all research activities, including visits to special collections and reading rooms. Note-taking will help you retrieve information later when you're ready to start writing.
Now that you have all the resources you need to start writing a term paper, let's get to the actual writing process.
Actual term paper writing:
Here are the steps involved in writing a term paper:
- Verify that the topic is okay. It's very important to choose only those topics which you genuinely like.
- Research your topic. If required, take guidance from your professor as well for this stage.
- Plan it out by making an outline of what you are going to write and how you will write about it.
- Now start writing your final paper: Start by stating the name of the assignment/paper, followed by an introduction that gives a good insight into exactly why your research is interesting and relevant (if desired). Then state exactly what you are going to cover in your paper.
- Make subheadings that divide your paper into various parts. Start with the subject you are going to cover in each section. Use bullet points as shown above.
- After this, write materials for all the sources of research material that you have collected during the pre-writing section. If required, take help from your professor or seniors.
- Include a list of references
- Proofread your term paper to get rid of grammatical errors.
Steps for writing term paper from scratch are given above according to our personal experience and views. Please note that these steps may vary depending upon the choice of topic and other requirements. To get more information, please feel free to contact us at our support desk or ask any question at our term paper writing service if you are not able to follow these steps for writing term paper from scratch as given above.
Hints for Writing a Term Paper
Here we will discuss about how to write a term paper. There are some important points that students should keep in their mind while writing a term paper, including the following:
- Choose your topic wisely. The chosen topic must be related to your course and current academic year.
- Use quality sources only because it has greater impact on your grade while writing a term paper.
- Place footnotes and references properly and adequately.
- Make sure that you have covered all the points given in your outline and plan for writing a term paper.
- Avoid plagiarism because it is directly related to academic failure.
- It is recommended that you take help from others (teachers, classmates etc.) as much as possible while writing a term paper.
- Look for resources like library, online sources, eBooks, journals or articles which contain relevant information on your topic. After reading each of them carefully select those sources which are beneficial for research and provide quality information about your research topic.
- Never depend on just one source if you can find more than one useful resource.
- Follow step by step methodology given above: initial, intermediate and final planning, finding relevant information from internet or any other source as well as writing the whole essay.
- As an undergraduate student you should read all your course materials and take notes of everything which is required like: definitions, formulas, graphs etc. You can even take notes while taking class lectures and listen attentively.
Basic Term paper format example
You can not understand how to start a term paper or even write a good research paper if you don't know how to write a term paper format that is acceptable in your school or college.
The paper format is different in most of the schools and colleges but they are somewhat similar. Therefore you should learn to write a simple term paper format because it would be helpful for you to understand how other formats are being written.
In this article I have described what things you need to include in your term paper format and also it includes some samples that you can use while writing your own term paper.
Here is a list of the sections in basic term paper format:
- Title page - The title of the paper which is written in capital letters and centered. Title page should be 2-3 lines long. The title page includes the title of your paper, writer's name, institution where you are studying and department through which you are working on your term paper.
- Abstract - Abstract is the first page of a term paper. An abstract should be 1-2 lines long and it contains only important points. Abstracts are used in research papers, journal articles and dissertations.
- Table of contents - A table of contents that includes all the sections and subsections in your term paper.
- Introduction - This is a short statement which defines what topic you are going to discuss in your term paper.
- Main Body - This section contains all your arguments or supporting points for writing about this topic. You should support your research with relevant examples or other references so that it can attract the reader's attention.
- Conclusion - This is a brief description which tells readers why they must read this term paper. Conclusion should not be longer than 3 lines if possible, but it depends on how much information you want to give from your conclusion.
- References page - References page also called as bibliography (in UK) contains list of all the books, journals, websites etc. that you have referred in your term paper. This page is separated from your main body of the term paper by placing a blank page between them.
- Appendix - This is also a separate page which contains raw data that is not relevant to your research or any other additional information you want to share.
Now you know how to format a term paper in the right way.
How to choose a term paper topic
Choosing a topic for your term paper can be a bit of a challenge. Sometimes, even after putting together an extensive list of topics, you may find that none really catch your interest enough to pursue as term paper material. The best way to deal with this is to come up with some criteria for choosing term paper topics. By doing so, you can narrow down the field and ensure that your topic will be a good one.
The first step in choosing a term paper topic is to identify your audience. If you are writing for an academic class, the professor will likely give you some guidelines to follow. For instance, if the course includes a research paper portion then he or she may specify which kind of paper is required (expository or argumentative) and give guidelines as to length.
Also, there are some general criteria that most professors look for when assigning term papers:
- they want students to think outside of the box;
- they want students to be creative;
- they want students to learn how to do research;
- they don't want them simply regurgitating existing works on a particular subject.
Another good resource for choosing your term paper topic is your school's library. If you are a student at a large university, chances are the library has one of the largest collections in the area. The librarians will know which topics have been covered thoroughly and which ones haven't been touched on at all so make sure to ask for their help!
The best way to narrow down your list of possible choices is to keep it manageable. Write down all of the ideas that come into your head but stop there instead of adding 50 more because they seem cool. Once you have separated out the vague and unhelpful ideas from those with some potential, choose five or ten that look like they could work as paper topics. Don't try to cover too much ground. It's better to focus on a common theme or idea and see how it develops over time than to try to say everything you know about 20 different issues in one paper!
There is no need for the actual topic of your term paper to be brand new. If there is a subject that interests you, chances are others have also been interested by it at some point or another. Even if no one has written a term paper on it before, there are likely dozens of articles available on the topic for you to use as research material. Just make sure you don't want to tackle something so obscure that not many people will be able to relate because then no one would have any knowledge to contribute when writing your bibliography!
How to pick good sources for term paper - 15 tips
Research is a key aspect of writing term papers. The sources you use in your paper will determine the quality of content. There are many online resources for finding relevant sources, but it's easy to be overwhelmed by all the available options.
When looking for a source, it's important to consider the following questions:
- Is it reputable? Check for any online reviews of the website or book.
- Is the content written in a style that is suitable for your paper?
- Is there an appropriate balance of sources that provide different perspectives on the topic?
- Does it clearly state its own bias?
- Are there any additional sources of information that will provide more depth to the topic?
- Is the content well-supported by credible sources and reliable facts?
- Is it current or is it a historical account?
- Is the author/creator of the source known for providing factual research? If not, what experience does he or she have with the subject matter of your paper (i.e., expertise)?
- How long has this source been available online and in publication formats (printed journals, books, etc.)?
- Has this source been cited by other credible works on the subject matter of your paper?
- Does the source include original research or is it mainly a summary of other sources?
- Can you find this information elsewhere without having to pay a fee for access (i.e., a subscription)? If not, will the material be available if you purchase it?
- Is the content already formatted in an easy-to-read typeface and font size?
- Does it contain any offensive language or pictures?
- Does it meet your writing style needs by providing adequate details and examples of similar topics in previous publications that support its current topic more in depth than your paper requires?
13 Acceptable sources to use when writing a term paper
Acceptable sources for a term paper include:
- Scholarly journals
- Books and publications by credible people
- News articles online from a trusted source (i.e., not an opinion blog)
- Websites that have been reviewed positively by other users
- Other scholarly studies on your topic of interest
- Statistics published in reliable sources (i.e., U.S. Census Bureau, the World Health Organization)
- Recorded interviews or speeches using reputable websites like YouTube (with relevant citations or links to the video if you cite it in your paper)
- Your own research and experience with your topic area if you're writing about something you are knowledgeable about and can provide citations to support what you write.
- Credible books that are available in an online database or library (online versions of the book may be limited unless you purchase it). If you choose a book from the library, check to see if there are any print copies available at a branch near you. Sometimes, print versions can have better content and support for your term paper than what is available online.
- Print journals that are not accessible through databases (You need permission to use them.) - For example, some scientific journals require payment to access them via a subscription service or on the journal's website. Unless you have access to an institutional subscription, ask your teacher if they will provide this resource for you as part of the assignment.
- Government documents and congressional reports (again, check to make sure you can use them)
- Experiential journals written by credible people - Not just for English classes, this can be a great source for other classes or projects that require you to conduct original research on your own experience or observation. Ask permission from the author before using their content in full in your paper. Otherwise, ask if you can use one quote as an example of what something they did was like or how it made them feel at the time of writing; however, note the author's name and whether they granted you permission to use a specific quote. If not, paraphrase what they said instead with appropriate citations in the References and Notes section.
- For scientific term papers - only use results from credible sources (i.e., peer-reviewed journals)
What is a scientific term paper?
Scientific term papers are usually written about scientific topics. The purpose of these papers is to present the body of knowledge that has been gathered about a subject. Term paper writing, in general, is an important skill for anyone pursuing higher education. It takes time to research, write and revise term papers. This is why students are encouraged to start working on them as soon as their college freshmen year.
What subjects can you find a scientific term paper on?
There is a broad range of topics that can be covered in scientific term papers. Some examples include: organic chemistry; physics; astronomy; kinematics (the study of movement); genetics; business management; oceanography; food science and technology or any other course your instructor has deemed relevant for the subject at hand. It's worth noting that not all courses have term papers assigned to them. For example, an English class won't need one if its focus is on literature rather than language use. That's because every field has its unique sets of rules that determine what makes for a good paper.
What does a scientific term paper look like?
The format of your term paper largely depends on the field in which it's written and the instructions given by your instructor. In general, however, you'll need an introduction, body paragraphs with supporting information and a conclusion. These are all crucial for creating a solid foundation from which to write your entire project upon. By using this strategy you'll be able to create consistent ideas that will provide readers with valuable insights into the topic at hand.
Term paper outline example
A good term paper outline includes seven elements:
- An introduction: explains what the subject of a term paper is about,
- Two main sections; one for each general part of a term paper. Each section should be divided into three or four parts (sub-parts), which support your main idea and are logical to analyze in your research topic. Within a sub-part you can put illustrations (examples, specific cases) that prove the five W's (who, where, when, why and how). A pure example is not enough! The reader has to see the problem first hand before getting to know what solution it has. For example, many universities prohibit students from giving examples from their own personal experience. If however you have this permission then use it because it is a very effective way to get your message across.
- Conclusion: brings the whole term paper together and restates main ideas, explaining why they are important because they help solve certain problems or reinforce positive situations.
The following short paragraph example shows you how this works in real life:
"Shakespeare created characters like Falstaff to show that people could be funny as well as evil. This unreliable joker became the focus of many plays, as if he were part of an antihero series on television."
- Introduction: The introduction consists of two sentences which define what you will write about (Falstaff) and also reveal the four types of information which exist in every term paper (main idea, sub-division into parts, illustrations). The first main part has a sub-part for each type of information on Falstaff. The remaining three parts of the introduction serve to introduce what you will write about and also say why it is important (Eureka!) .
- Conclusion: The conclusion restates the importance of Falstaff in helping solve certain problems or reinforcing positive situations. It is like saying "And finally …", "I hope you enjoyed reading this term paper: if so, click here to share its URL with your friends …" This brings us back to where we started - paying attention to the five W's!).
- Footnotes: they should be used in order to confirm facts and give evidence when you make an argumentative point! Also include a short preface paragraph that introduces readers to the situation/person your footnote is about.
- References: they should be used to back up all facts and to give credit where it is due. You might also include bibliographies at the end of term papers (in addition to footnotes).
- In-text citations: they should not only be used in footnotes or bibliographies but also inside paragraphs whenever you refer to a specific person, book, movie etc.
Resources and term paper samples
Here is a comprehensive list of term paper writing samples available for free online. Click on each link to read the example term papers and college final papers:
- University of Delaware - Samples
- University of Utah - Paper Guidelines
- University of Nebraska - Lincoln
- Tulane University - Guide
What is the structure of a scientific term paper?
The structure of your scientific term paper largely depends on what your instructor has assigned. It may be that they have given you a list of topics to choose from and asked you to write about one of them. Alternatively, they may have required you to find certain materials online and create an annotated bibliography with sources cited. In either case, there are some broad guidelines for completing these tasks successfully:
- Introduction: this should establish the focus and relevance of your research topic within the broader field in which it belongs (you will often find introductions labeled as 'background')
- Body Paragraphs: these provide support for your thesis statement by using evidence gathered through research. It's important to note that each paragraph should have a topic sentence (this is what supports your central claim). Paragraphs should also be ordered in a way so as to build up to an argument
- Conclusion: this summarises the main points you want your readers to take away from the paper and it includes any further claims you may wish to make
- Annotated Bibliography: if this is required, it will either be included at the end of your paper or separately. If used at the end, then references are cited within. The purpose of including them here is to show that you've read enough about the subject matter and found enough evidence that supports your claims for writing the term paper in question. A bibliography should not be used to extend the term paper in length.
Term paper writing tips - How to write a final paper effectively
Here are various professional tips that will help you write a grade winning term paper or final paper.
- When creating your thesis statement it's important to focus on what you want to prove. In most cases, this will be linked to an assignment given by your instructor. If that is the case, then take their requirements into account and use them as guidelines for writing up your topic sentence and subsequent paragraph summaries (also known as body paragraphs).
- Divide your project by chapters and sections; within each section create headings and subheadings so as to make topics easy to navigate.
- Think about using graphs where appropriate and consider where images might fit into the project. By doing this you'll create a solid outline that ensures little is left behind when you begin writing your term paper.
- Use at least 5 academic sources that are cited within the text (peer reviewed journals are preferred) OR 2 peer reviewed journal articles and 3 books or chapters from edited volumes OR 4 peer reviewed journal articles AND 1 book chapter.
- If you use materials that are not in your native language, then make sure to provide an English translation or transliteration of the title and author(s).
- Provide a list of all languages that have been used throughout the project.
- To avoid plagiarism, make sure you do not borrow content from any other term paper/article.
- You cannot use Wikipedia or similar scientific/technical encyclopedias as sources for your work.
- Follow a general structure: introduction; body paragraphs (following national guidelines); conclusion including bibliography (make sure to reference all academic sources properly according to APA format).