Term paper season causes a lot of anxiety for students. The grade is not a matter of memorization but of doing something with one’s acquired knowledge. Scantrons no more! The irony is we’re often eager to state our point of view except when it’s obligatory. Here’s a few tips:
- Start with a subject covered in the course that interested you. It’s important that you find your chosen topic to be intriguing. Trust me, if you’re bored with your thesis then writing will be excruciating. Don’t be afraid to connect a subject learned in class with something that aligns with your passion and/or area of expertise.
- Don’t worry if you’re momentarily paralyzed by the project. Many writers feel the jitters when eyeing a blank page. Congratulations, you are normal!
- Break the tasks of putting the paper together into manageable bits.
- Try free writing (old-fashioned with pen and paper) using the following prompt: “This interested me because…”
- Or, try this: “This subject reminded me of…”
- At the risk of sounding corny, if your attitude is “Ugh, I have to write this term paper,” consider shifting your attitude to “I have an opportunity to explore an idea and express my thoughts.”
- Once you get a handle on your position regarding a topic then begin using the library’s search engine for publications on your subject matter.
- Reading the publications ask yourself: does this enhance my view? How so? Is this contrary to my view?
- Now begin an outline with a clear thesis, order of ideas, and a conclusion. Why is this topic worthy of writing about? How is it significant?
- Fill in your outline. Again, break the work up into bits if the task feels overwhelming. Some people do wonderful work hours at a time, but that isn’t necessary for everyone. Devote at least 25 minutes to pure focus time on your paper and shut off any distractions. Step away for a while and then return to your work.
- Contact the professor if you’re concerned about the direction of your topic. All professors were once students themselves and they understand the trials of paper writing.
- Chat with a friend about your paper idea. Talking out loud about an idea can inject energy into your work. Perhaps your friend will add an insight.
- After your first draft print your work. I cannot stress this enough. Never hand in a paper that hasn’t been printed and edited. A print version allows you to spot grammar errors and awkward sentence flow better than re-reading on a screen.
- Review the professor’s guidelines regarding citations, margins, and other details.
- Type up corrections you made from your printed version. I recommend printing another draft, stepping away from it to do another activity, and then re-read your printed version out loud and slowly.
- Edit out overused terms and double check your use of conjunctions. Most likely due to the world of texting I’ve found many grammar errors confusing possessive with plural. (Know the difference between it’s, its, you’re, your, then, than, their, there, whether, and weather.)
- Make your final corrections. Print! Cheer!
- Remember, your term paper is an expression of your thoughts. You are offering an interpretation or analysis on a subject that is unique because it comes from you. This is an exercise in thinking, not just knowing, and it is one of the ways you learn more about a subject and, in turn, more about yourself.
*Fancy more tips? Click here.