Guide to Writing Term Papers

July 28, 2017

Writing a term paper can be a challenge, but if you use a thorough and systematic approach, it is not so intimidating. Here is step-by-step way to write a term paper.

No matter what your topic

Start by looking for books, articles, etc. in the university library. Use the computer networks and other reference tools – if you don't know how, ask the librarians.

Read the sources and take notes on them.

Take a bibliography, so you can go back to the source whenever you need to.
Write individual notes on note cards or individual pages of a small spiral book. This will make the notes easier to categorize later.
Whenever you take a quote or an idea from a source, you have to cite it – if you don't, it's plagiarism. Make sure you take down the appropriate information in every note you take.

After you are done

You should have a pretty good idea of what your thesis will be. If not, spend some time (an hour or so) just thinking and jotting down your ideas on paper, until your thesis comes into focus.

Don't worry if your start your research without a thesis – that is normal.

If you start with a thesis, and it changes in the course of your research, or even as you write down your ideas, don't worry – that's also normal.

Make sure that your thesis is:

  • Not just a statement of fact. (“Commercials are used to sell things to consumers” is just a fact and not a thesis.)
  • Makes a claim about something. (“Commercials are ineffective ways to sell things to consumers.”)
  • Not too broad. (“This paper will discuss the effectiveness of TV, radio, and internet commercials as well as their role in the economy” is too broad for most papers.)

Write a general outline of your paper

So you have an idea of what you want to say and in what order you want to say it.

Have a list of which general points you want to make, and which notes refer to those points.
Make your strongest point your last point.
5. Write your paper with constant reference to your notes, your outline, and your thesis.

Put it aside for some time, in order to refresh your mind, and come back to it in order to revise and polish it.

Ask someone else to read it and give you honest criticism.

Use the spelling and grammar check on the computer, but do your own checking as well.

Read the paper to yourself out loud, in order to get the feel of the paper and to point out other errors you might have missed.

Ask yourself if the paper flows – does it have transitions between ideas? Is it choppy? Does it build up to your strongest point? Does it seem disjointed?

Make sure that all parts of the paper refer to and support the thesis.

Ask yourself if the paper answers all the questions that it claims to, and if you left any significant issues unresolved.

Ask yourself if you adequately considered alternative and opposing views – this is an important part of any good research paper.


Make sure that you have adequately documented all quotes and ideas that are not yours, and that you use the proper format for all parts of the paper, including the bibliography.

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