When you are first faced with the task of writing a long essay or term paper it can be intimidating, but you make your job and the reader’s job much easier by following some basic rules of thumb. Of course, if your professors offer you any specific guidelines about writing be sure to follow those first. Otherwise, incorporate the advice that follows into your papers wherever appropriate.
Of course, papers should always be typed, double-spaced on 8-1/2 x 11 paper on one side of the page only, and letter-quality print or better is always expected. Often you are expected to supply a cover sheet giving the date, your name, the title of the paper, the class, and the professor’s name. Tables and figures should be numbered consecutively throughout the text, and if there are a good number of them, then separate lists of tables and figures at the beginning of the paper may be expected. Tables and figures should always have descriptive captions, and if they come directly from sources, the sources must be specifically credited in the captions with the same citation style that you use throughout the paper.
A paper’s title should be succinct and definitive, individual and informational. Clearly, the title "An Overview of the Hydraulic Fracturing of Methane-Bearing Coal Formations" is more complete, satisfying, and informative than "Hydraulic Fracturing." The title is important because it announces the paper’s specific content and typically serves as a pathway to the paper’s thesis.
Your introduction is your opportunity to be at your most individual. You should get your reader’s attention immediately by announcing the paper’s subject or by launching into a relevant scenario or narrative that informs or illustrates your overall argument. A paper illustrating the costly effects of poor mine design, for instance, might open with the scenario of how a poorly designed pillar at a salt mine in Louisiana once collapsed, fracturing the surface above and draining an entire lake into the mine. A paper on the supply and demand of nickel might begin by straightforwardly announcing that the paper will explain the uses of nickel, detail its market structure, and use data to forecast the future supply and demand of the metal.
In brief, a paper’s introduction should define and limit the paper’s scope and purpose, indicate some sense of organization, and, whenever possible, suggest an overall argument. Another important principle in technical writing is that the introduction should be problem-focused, giving the reader enough background so that the paper’s importance and relationship to key ideas are clear. A rule of thumb about the introduction’s length: about 5-10% of the entire paper.
As examples of how creative an introduction can be, here are the opening lines from a geography paper and a paper on optics, both of which use narrative technique to arouse our interest. Note how the first excerpt uses an "I" narrator comfortably while the second excerpt does not use "I" even though the writer is clearly reflective about the subject matter. The first excerpt is from a paper on the generic nature of America’s highway exit ramp services; the second is from a paper on shape constancy.
The observation struck me slowly, a growing sense of déjà vu. I was driving the endless miles of Interstate 70 crossing Kansas when I began to notice that the exits all looked the same. . . .
Our eyes often receive pictures of the world that are contrary to physical reality. A pencil in a glass of water miraculously bends; railroad tracks converge in the distance. . . .
Thesis Statement / Objective
Most papers have outright thesis statements or objectives. Normally you will not devote a separate section of the paper to this; in fact, often the thesis or objective is conveniently located either right at the beginning or right at the end of the Introduction. A good thesis statement fits only the paper in which it appears. Thesis statements usually forecast the paper’s content, present the paper’s fundamental hypothesis, or even suggest that the paper is an argument for a particular way of thinking about a topic. Avoid the purely mechanical act of writing statements like "The first topic covered in this paper is x. The second topic covered is y. The third topic is . . ." Instead, concretely announce the most important elements of your topic and suggest your fundamental approach—even point us toward the paper’s conclusion if you can.
Here are two carefully focused and thoughtfully worded thesis statements, both of which appeared at the ends of introductory paragraphs:
This paper reviews the problem of Pennsylvania’s dwindling landfill space, evaluates the success of recycling as a solution to this problem, and challenges the assumption that Pennsylvania will run out of landfill space by the year 2020.
As this paper will show, the fundamental problem behind the Arab-Israeli conflict is the lack of a workable solution to the third stage of partition, which greatly hinders the current negotiations for peace.
Body Paragraphs / Section Headings
Never simply label the middle bulk of the paper as "Body" and then lump a bunch of information into one big section. Instead, organize the body of your paper into sections by using an overarching principle that supports your thesis, even if that simply means presenting four different methods for solving some problem one method at a time. Normally you are allowed and encouraged to use section headings to help both yourself and the reader follow the flow of the paper. Always word your section headings clearly, and do not stray from the subject that you have identified within a section.
As examples, I offer two sets of section headings taken from essays. The first is from Dr. Craig Bohren’s "Understanding Colors in Nature" (1), which appeared in a 1990 edition of Earth & Mineral Sciences; the second is from a student’s paper on the supply and demand of asbestos.
Section Headings From "Understanding Colors In Nature"
- Color By Scattering: The Role of Particle Size
- Color By Scattering: The Positions of Source and Observer
- The Blue Sky: The Role of Multiple Scattering
- Color By Absorption in Multiple-Scattering Media
- Color by Absorption: Microscopic Mechanisms are Sometimes Elusive
Section Headings From "Asbestos: Supply and Demand"
- Industry Structure
- The Mining and Properties of Asbestos
- World Resources and Reserves
- Byproducts and Co-products
- Economic Factors and Supply and Demand Problems
- Uses of and Substitutes for Asbestos
- The Issue of Health on Supply and Demand
Just by considering the section headings in the above examples, we can begin to see the fundamental structures and directions of the essays, because both sets of headings break the paper topic into its natural parts and suggest some sort of a movement forward through a topic. Note how these headings—as all section headings should—tell us the story of the paper and are worded just as carefully as any title should be.
Most importantly, then, you must use your section headings in the same way that you use topic sentences or thesis statements: to control, limit, and organize your thinking for your reader’s sake.
Most papers use "Conclusion" as a heading for the final section of the text, although there are times when headings such as "Future Trends" will serve equally well for a paper’s closing section. When you are stuck for a conclusion, look back at your introduction; see if you can freshly reemphasize your objectives by outlining how they were met, or even revisit an opening scenario from the introduction in a new light to illustrate how the paper has brought about change. Your conclusion should not be a summary of the paper or a simple tacked-on ending, but a significant and logical realization of the paper’s goals.
Beware of the temptation to open your final paragraph with "In conclusion," or "In summary," and then summarize the paper. Instead, let your entire conclusion stand as a graceful termination of an argument. As you write your conclusion, concentrate on presenting the bottom line, and think of the word’s definition: a conclusion is an articulated conviction arrived at on the basis of the evidence you have presented.
What follows is an excerpt from a conclusion to a paper entitled "Exercise in the Prevention and Treatment of Osteoporosis in Women." Note how the conclusion reflects directly on the paper’s hypothesis and spells out the bottom line, gracefully bringing closure to the paper’s argument:
The majority of evidence presented in this paper supports the hypothesis that exercise positively affects bone mineral density in both premenopausal and postmenopausal women. Significantly, exercise has been shown to increase bone mineral density in premenopausal women even after the teenage years, and it helps preserve the bone mass achieved in the following decades. There is also evidence that exercise adds a modest, yet significant amount of bone mass to the postmenopausal skeleton. As these findings demonstrate, women of all ages can benefit by regular weight-bearing exercise, an increased intake of calcium-rich foods, and—for postmenopausal women—the maintenance of adequate estrogen levels. For all women, it is never too late to prevent osteoporosis or lessen its severity by making appropriate lifestyle choices.
Any sources cited must be correctly listed on a References page using the Author-Year or Number system (see Chapter 5 of this handbook).
Before we delve into the structure of a term paper, let’s first define it and look into the objectives of this writing assignment. A term paper is a research paper required at the end of a school semester. It tracks and evaluates the students’ knowledge about the course. Usually a scientific report or a discussion of an assigned topic, the term paper requires a lot of research and technical writing expertise. This academic writing assignment as this reflects your knowledge of a certain course.
Table Of Contents
How To Outline a Term Paper
The outline of the paper should be made before researching and writing because this will serve as your skeleton as you continue on your work. There are a lot of paper templates to choose from, but most of the time your instructor will require a certain essay format for the whole class to follow. The main parts should include an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.
Instructors usually provide topics related to your course. However, sometimes you are free to choose your own paper topic, read articles, news, magazines, and blogs to get ideas for a term paper topic. Make sure that the topic you choose will fulfill the objectives of your course and will interest you. If a certain topic interest you, researching and writing about it will be easier and more fun.
The following should be considered when choosing a topic:
- Length: Consider the length of the required paper. Will it be a 10-page long or 5-page short? How many words are required? Considering the length will help you choose a certain topic because you will be able to decide how broad your subject will be.
- Resources: Check out your school or community library for available resources. Go through available online research resources and make sure you will have hands on books and other materials needed for reference.
- Complexity: Make sure that you will be able to explain your topic no matter how complex it may be. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask experts. Let your professor explain a certain area in your topic.
How To Start
Before starting, make sure to follow instructions given to you. Clarifications should be made with your instructor before doing any research or writing work. If you want quality work and a high grade, plan ahead and make time every day for writing your paper. Allot time for proofreading your work before handing it to your professor.
A good way to start is by creating a compelling and creative title. Your title page is the first impression of your work so make sure that it will capture your reader’s attention. Take note of the parts as you research and write away.
The structure should be organized and well-researched. Our academic writer reminds that technical writing skills should be crucial in organizing your ideas. The following is the term paper rubric, abstract, or layout that you should follow in presenting your argument or topic:
- Cover page: Align the text containing your name, course number, your teacher’s name and the date of the deadline.
- Abstract: Usually less than a page long, It lets the readers know where the paper is headed, the issue at hand and why the subject was interesting or important enough that you decided to write about it.
- Introduction:The introduction should begin with a statement on the topic to be discussed. Give current social events that are linked or explain the significance of the problem at hand.
- Body: The body of your text should contain the synthesis of your research. Provide information about the topic so that Don’t forget certain positions pertaining to the issue and the analysis of the research you have done.
- Results:. How has your view changed from when you began the project? Has it stayed the same, and why? Tie everything you’ve been explaining into what you started saying in your introduction.
- Discussion: Finish by stating an opening question or by prompting the reader to continue his or her own research on the subject through a discussion.
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 approved before writing the actual term paper.
Include recent studies or research about your topic. Show relevance of your topic to your course effectively by submitting a short article with a clear explanation. Provide your objectives and observe organization in the flow of your ideas.
Related: How To Write a Research Proposal
If your professor didn’t provide a proposal template or sample, you could follow this format:
- Title: This is a draft title of what you want to research on. Make it clear and comprehensible.
- Objectives: This part should define your outcomes after your research. You should be able to answer questions above all, in a term paper.
- Relevance and Importance: Include recent news, social events, articles, and blogs leading to the importance of the topic. Your topic should be up to date and capture the attention of the reader.
There are many examples available online including formats and templates. You can follow these formats but make sure that you maintain your proposal’s organization and don’t forget to highlight main points and objectives.
In arranging the format, consider first the length and the citation style to be used. When you have researched on a certain topic, you are required to use a specific citation style. If you forget to reference properly, you might be accused of plagiarism. Also, a term paper is an academic writing assignment therefore, APA or MLA citation styles are commonly used.
- Use APA (American Psychological Association) term paper format for social sciences. To reference a book in an APA style term paper, the publication name, date, and location are needed. So make sure to take note of this during your research.
- The MLA (Modern Language Association) term paper format are used for liberal arts and humanities. The publication name, date, and location are needed in this format as well.
Good Term Paper Example
Essay Writing Advice From Our Professional Team
Tutor Joseph, from EssayPro
This article is very helpful. However, I would like to add my advice to the topic selection process. When you select a topic, choose one that enhances your understanding of the subject. Usually, I would advise choosing a topic that one finds interesting, but with this kind of paper, demonstrating knowledge as opposed to finding something particularly interesting to write about. To begin, get an idea to act as the foundation of the term paper. The idea should relate to the text and the subject. If this is written for a particular class, note down some of the class discussions that you had while taking the class and consider writing about those. That will get you brownie points with the professor. That being said, avoid general topics. Narrow it down according to the article’s directions. Before finally choosing the topic, clarify it with your professor if possible. Go during office hours and ask if they have any advice for in what direction you can take the term paper.
Get Help from Experts
Researching and writing really take a lot of time and effort. Also, school assignments and examinations usually pile up at the end of the semester. If you need custom writing help, don’t hesitate to use EssayPro. This is your number one go-to site for term paper writing service. Experienced writers from all around the world will attend to your writing needs immediately. These writers can proofread and improve your academic paper. They can also help you choose a topic and edit your referencing into an APA or MLA format. What are you waiting for? Head on over to EssayPro!
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