How To Write A College Term Paper

The level of coursework difficulty jumps drastically when you reach college. In high school, short papers may have been assigned at the end of the year, but in college, many professors require short papers every few weeks. In addition, you’ll likely be required to write a term paper over the course of the semester. Your term paper will be a long and complex research paper that makes up a fairly large percentage of your final grade for the class. To successfully write a college term paper, follow these steps:

Read the directions carefully and choose your topic early. Professors typically hand out information about the term paper rather early. Some even give you the requirements on the first day of class. It pays to get started early, because at the end of your semester, you’ll be bombarded with work. Make sure that you read the directions carefully, so you know how many sources you need, how long the paper should be, and what topic parameters exist.

Read as much as you can about your topic. The library is a great place to start, and what research books and scholarly journals can’t tell you can be found on the web. When you come across an especially interesting argument, make sure you note the source, since you might use it for your final paper. Don’t get too bogged down by what you will and will not use just yet – simply read as much as possible.

Write your thesis statement. A thesis statement should be one to two sentences that you can argue throughout the rest of your paper. Avoid a thesis that is too general, because your argument points will be too broad to adequately cover in the number of pages you’re given. Also avoid a thesis that is too narrow, or you’ll run out of things to say about the topic.

Narrow down your research. Many professors require a certain number of sources, and some even go as far to break down how many different kinds you need (ie, how many books, how many articles, and so forth). Keep in mind that you can quote from one source multiple times in your paper. A good rule of thumb, though, is that you should have as many sources as pages, so if your paper is ten pages long, you should try to have around ten sources. It depends on your topic, though.

Draft your paper. You should have an introductory paragraph (or page, depending on the overall length of your paper), followed by the body of the paper with points and research to support your thesis. Close with a page or paragraph that restates the thesis and confirms your argument. Some professors are willing to look at a rough draft of your term paper to give you feedback, or you can exchange papers with classmates to help one another make revisions.

Write the final draft and cite your sources. Take all feedback into consideration (especially that from your professor), and create a polished final draft. Don’t forget to cite your sources in the style required by your professor, and remember to double check on due dates so your paper isn’t late.

Need more help? The DC Library has great term paper resources available!


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