How to Write a Well-Researched Term Paper

Updated: Nov 9, 2016

Most semesters in higher education, the student is usually assigned a Term Paper, a rather lengthy essay on a subject that their course has covered in a semester.

Most semesters in higher education, the student is usually assigned a term paper, a rather lengthy essay on a subject that their course has covered in a semester. It usually accounts for a substantial portion of their overall grade and demonstrates to their professor that they have understood the information and/or skills they have been taught during this time.

In almost ALL cases, the term paper requires the student to conduct extensive research, mostly to expand on what they have learned and to demonstrate that they can analyze that knowledge while using their always-improving critical-thinking and reasoning skills. The term paper is essentially the culmination of not only research and critical thinking, but of source evaluation, organization and composition. The term paper is either argumentative in nature (one where a student crafts a well-developed argument that is persuasive in manner) or one that is an analytical research paper (with the student thoroughly exploring and evaluating a topic).

 Steps in Writing a Term Paper Using Extensive Research

1. Choose a topic. Most often this step requires the student first determining what kind of paper they either WANT to write or HAVE to write – one that is argumentative or analytical in manner. This depends on the assignment, of course; but if they have a choice, they first must choose a topic to discuss at length. It should be one that interests them, one that also, somehow, relates to the course in which the assignment is given. Also, the student should choose a term paper topic that is researchable. 

2. Research the topic in depth and gather relevant information. In writing a term paper, the student’s opinion is not sufficient; what matters are the facts and arguments that support the claim they are making. So they must collect solid, scholarly information – books that have talked about the topic at length, encyclopedias, academic journals, etc. – and record pertinent information to then pepper into their term paper; this is done to make their claim, or their analysis, of a topic more credible.

3. Make a plan/outline for how the term paper will be presented. This should include the student’s topic – what they will explore their topic, what evidence or research can be used to expand on that analysis, and what they will ultimately conclude about this topic.

4. Draft, then edit the term paper. By this step, the student should know their topic very well, what type of paper they are writing, and what kind of claim or analysis they’re making in the term paper. Most times, the introduction paragraph will, with a question they are exploring or a claim they are making, serve as a compass for the rest of the paper. This step is where they will implement their research into the term paper to add depth. When editing their first draft, the student should examine each paragraph to make sure no unnecessary information was included, that all punctuation and spelling was professional and academic in manner, and that the term paper has a logical flow that supports the claim or argument declared in the first paragraph.

5. Submit the paper. Once all the above-mentioned steps have been taken, you are ready to go ahead and submit your term paper for review. If you teacher/instructor provides comments/feedback, be prepared to incorporate it into the final version of your research. These comments are almost always adding value to the paper, so keep your eyes and ears open.

Term Paper Outline

I. Introduction

a. Attention getter

b. Transition

c. Thesis statement

II. Body Paragraphs (Supporting Thesis)

a. Main Idea

1. Supporting Idea

2. Supporting Quote

b. Main Idea 

1. Supporting Idea

2. Supporting Quote

III. Body Paragraphs (Supporting Thesis)

a. Main Idea

1. Supporting Idea

2. Supporting Quote

b. Main Idea 

1. Supporting Idea

2. Supporting Quote

IV. Body Paragraphs (Supporting Thesis)

a. Main Idea

1. Supporting Idea

2. Supporting Quote

b. Main Idea 

1. Supporting Idea

2. Supporting Quote

V. Body Paragraphs (Supporting Thesis)

a. Main Idea

1. Supporting Idea

2. Supporting Quote

b. Main Idea 

1. Supporting Idea

2. Supporting Quote

VI. Conclusion

a. Summarize Main Points

b. Refer Back to the Introduction

1. Reference Attention Getter 

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