Most university students hate having to write term papers. Most dread the mere mention that one will be required. But term papers are a fact of life in university, and you need to get used to them – fast. There are strategies to write better term papers, and that needs to be the focus.
There are at least three reasons we should take a positive view of term papers:
- As mentioned above, term papers are a university fact of life.
- There will be term papers – or term paper equivalents – that you will be required to complete throughout your future career.
- A term paper is an excellent opportunity to raise your grade in a course where you are struggling; this is especially important if you are a student who does not do well on tests and exams.
Now that you know why you should take a positive view of term papers, here are strategies for writing better ones.
Recognize The Significance Of The ProjectWith any term paper assignment, the first job is getting over the “yuck” factor. Look at a term paper assignment as an opportunity to raise your grade. In most courses where term papers are assigned, it will represent a significant part of your overall course grade. This will be your chance to shine in the course if you haven’t already.
Term papers are also an indication of your mastery of the subject. Unlike an exam, which only tests a certain portion of coursework, and often only superficially at that, a term paper is an opportunity to take what you have learned and put it into language that can be presented to others.
In the business world, the ability to present ideas and concepts in a way that other people can understand is often more important than technical knowledge. The people who can do that the most effectively are also often the best paid.
With all this in mind, be sure to give any term paper assignment your best effort. It may be the best skill you take away from your university experience. Think of it as training for the rest of your life.
You Can Never Have Too Many References
One of the most impressive components of a term paper is the use of references. Generally speaking, you can never have too many. Not only are references impressive from a presentation standpoint, but it also demonstrates a strong ability to conduct research itself.
At a minimum, reference any factual material that you’re presenting, especially if you’re using statistical material. It gives credibility to your paper, and removes any concern by the grader that your paper is in any way a rambling written bull session.
Referencing is even more important when you’re presenting controversial or unusual viewpoints. The idea isn’t to hatch new concepts on your own – your professor probably doesn’t believe those to be valid anyway – but rather to support or challenge the positions of recognized authorities in the field.
Proper use of Wikipedia – If it’s one reference source that infuriates teachers and professors, it’s Wikipedia. It’s the lazy students way to research and reference. But there is a more constructive way that you can use Wikipedia – without appearing to use Wikipedia. Most of the material presented in Wikipedia is supported by footnote references. Rather than citing Wikipedia as your source, click through to the reference sources presented in Wikipedia. Not only can you use the material, but you’ll also be able to reference the direct source. Think of Wikipedia as a reference summary source, not as a direct one.
Don’t Forget To Include Your Opinion
Generally speaking, offering a concluding opinion will reflect positively on a term paper. Since you never want your term paper to be, or appear to be, a complete opinion piece, it may be best to hold your own personal position on the topic until the very end. Keep your term paper as a true research paper, but offer your opinion in the conclusion.
Most professors will want you to express some form of opinion on the topic of your term paper. It is the one element of the project that will make your paper completely unique. Make it with a generous amount of referenced research work, and you can earn a top grade.
Edit Your Work – Or Have It Edited By Someone Else
And outstanding term paper can easily be torpedoed by poor presentation. Be sure to edit your work thoroughly. Never rely on spell check functions – while they may correct misspellings, they will completely ignore the misuse of a word, or even poor sentence structure.
If you are not particularly skilled at editing yourself, or don’t feel you are the right person to edit any of your own work, have it edited by someone else. The best choice might be another student – one whose work you trust – and you can compensate him or her by offering to edit one of their papers.
When you have a term paper due, do you moan and groan – or do you embrace it as the opportunity that it is?