How to Write a Term Paper






Ray Gen















December 13, 2005

Dr. Ray Gen








I.              Introduce the paper. 

                                A.  Write a thesis.

                                B.  Be organized.

II.            Choose a topic for the paper.

                                A.  Choose a historical event.

                                B.  Choose a theme.

III.           Choose at least three sources.

                                A.  Use a non-fiction historical text source

                                B.  Use a non-fiction periodical source

                                C.  Use a cyber-source.

IV.           Take notes on your sources.

V.            Write an outline

VI.           Write an introduction.

VII.          Write the body of your paper.

                                A.  Make your arguments.

                                B.  Defend your arguments.

                                C.  Use your sources as support of your arguments.

VIII.        Document your paper.

                                A.  Use parenthetical documentation.

                                B.  How to use parenthetical documentation.

                                C.  Consult reference works.

IX.           Write a conclusion.

X.            Write a bibliography.





How to Write a Term Paper


                The writing of a term paper is not as difficult as you might think.  It is actually a simple task if you complete an uncomplicated series of tasks.  You should be organized and prepared to work diligently.  This paper will serve as a model to help you research and write your own term paper.  By following the steps outlined in this model, you should be able to write an effective paper.


                The English  student must first decide upon which historical event he or she wishes to study.  I suggest that you pick an area which is of some interest to you.  You may choose any event in American history.  For example, you may choose to study the Japanese-American internment during the Second World War.


                Next you will need to choose a theme which corresponds to the historical event.  Following the example mentioned above, a theme which would correspond to the Japanese-American evacuation could be prejudice.


                You should keep in mind that the second semester paper will involve matching a novel or drama to the theme.  Students will also be asked to use a short story or essay which matches the theme.


                Finding appropriate sources for your research paper will also be of major concern.  You must include at least one of  each of  the following types of sources:  (1) a historical text.  This source may be a chapter from your history text, a book, or an encyclopedia article.  (2)  You must include an article from a periodical or magazine.  This may be an article found in the American Heritage periodical.  (3)  You must also include a cyber-source, i.e., an article from a computer generated source.  Thus you may use the Internet, Encarta, or any online service provider’s resources.


                After you find at least three appropriate sources you must read and comprehend each source.  You may find that after reading a particular source that the source is actually inappropriate, or it may not make the point you are trying to make.  If this is the case, you may need to find an alternative source. 


                Once you understand your sources, you need to create notes so that the information becomes readily available to you without having to reread each article again when you write.  The writing of notes may take a number of forms.  The traditional method is to make note cards.  Place complete bibliographic information on each card and write the information or citation you wish to use in the paper.  After completing the outline you will number and arrange the cards in the order you wish to use them.  Another method is to simply type up the information you would normally place on a note card into a word processor file.  In this way, you may simply cut and paste the information directly into the text of your paper when you need it.  Another method would be to write notes onto a photocopy of your source and note when you would wish to use the information.  I have used all three methods.  I personally prefer the middle option.  This method saves times and economizes effort.  You may use any of these methods or one of your own.


                The next step would be to outline your paper.  An outline is your plan of attack.  The purpose of an outline is not only to let your reader scan the content of your paper, but an outline also helps you keep track of the paper.  It enables you to check and see if you are on task.  Having an outline does not preclude your ability to change your mind or paper.  If you do change your paper you should also change your outline to match so that your reader may scan what is actually in your paper.


                Your paper should begin with an introduction.  Your introduction should clearly identify and define your topic.  The introduction should also intrigue and interest your reader.  Make the introduction interesting so that your reader will want to read the rest of the paper.  Foretell what you want to accomplish in your paper and how you will do it. Clearly state your thesis.  Do not make your reader guess what you will do.  Plainly and clearly state your purpose for writing.


                The body of your paper will make your arguments and points.  This should be the bulk of your paper.  Here you will make use of most of your sources.  Here you will deal with the historical event.  Carefully explain the historical occurrence.  Explain what factors were involved and what happened.  You will need to define your theme.  Explain also how the historical event and the theme go together and compliment each other.  Use your sources effectively.  You should probably not deal with each source individually.  Make arguments from each source simultaneously.  This is not three “book reports” thrown together.  This essay involves making a single argument from at least three different sources.


                Your paper will also need to document the use of your sources.  Documentation is also known as footnoting.  The use of footnotes is traditional.  Footnotes inform the reader about the sources of  the information used in the paper and are found at the “foot” of the page.  Later in academia, the use of endnotes became popular.  Endnotes contain the same information as footnotes; however, they are located at the “end” of the paper but before the bibliography.  Currently, the most popular form of documentation is called parenthetical.  Parenthetical documentation contains nearly the same information; however, there are some adjustments.  Since parenthetical documentation is the most common today (Sorenson 200), your paper will require this method of documentation.  This paper just cited a work by someone named Sorenson.  In the bibliography of this paper, you will see that  Sharon Sorenson wrote a book called The Research Paper.  The information I used is found on page 200.  Sorenson suggests that you place parenthetical documentation where there is a natural pause such as at the end of the sentence or phrase (200).  Note that the period is placed after the documentation.  This most recent notation indicates that I used Sorenson again and I used the same page number.


                Parenthetical documentation will usually include the author’s last name and page number.  If the same author writes two or more of your sources then part of the title will also be used, for example (Sorenson, “Paper” 200) and (Sorenson, “Sources” 30).  If the source has more than one author use (Sorenson and Turabian 54).  Sorenson suggests that, “If there is no author, use the title, shortened if possible” (201).  An example of this would be (“How to Write” 36).


                Other reference works which will help you write your term papers include The Term Paper: A Manual and Model (Cooper and Robins), A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Turabian) and MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (Gibaldi).


                A conclusion of a paper is not a regurgitation of what was stated previously.  A conclusion is the end result of the paper.  You need to state what you have come to believe is true based upon your research.  In the following equation 1 + 2 = 3, the number 3 is the conclusion.  The rest of the equation defines the conclusion.  The conclusion is the end result.  You do not really need to restate the other terms.  Your paper should also encapsulate the end result of your work.


                All term papers need to terminate with a bibliography.  There are various types of bibliographies.  One type is called a “Works Consulted but Not Cited.”  Another type lists only the sources used in the research paper.  Still another type of bibliography is called an “Annotated Bibliography” wherein the works listed include a brief abstract or description of the source.


                Bibliographic information includes the information I had you record in the “Record” sheet at the beginning of the semester.  The following are models of bibliographic sources:





Last Name, First Name. Title in Italics or Bold. City where published: Publisher, Year published.  (note

                punctuation and indent)


Sorenson, Sharon. The Research Paper. New York:  Amsco School Publications, Inc.,





Last, Name, First Name.  “Title of Article.”  Name of Periodical in Italics or Bold.  Date

                of the Issue:  pages numbers of the article.  (note punctuation and indent)


Starr, Mark and Karen Springen. “Caught Speeding.”  Newsweek.  July 29, 1996:





Last Name, First Name.  “Title of Article.”  Name of Medium.  City of Source Material:

                Production Company:  Year. (note punctuation and indent)


Ziemke, Earl F.  “World War II.”  Microsoft Encarta ‘95.  Redmon, Washington: 

                Microsoft Corporation: 1994.


electronic source


Last Name, First name.  “Title of Article.”  Name of Electronic Source.  Electronic Medium.  Year

                Published. Name of Network.  Date Accessed.


Snyder, Louis L.  “World War II.” Academic American Encyclopedia (Electronic

                Version), Grolier, Inc. 1996. American On Line. September 16, 1996.




Last Name, First Name (if available).  “Title/Keywords.”  Website Address.  Date Accessed.


Gmoser, Stegan.  “The Work and Life of Edgar Allan Poe.” .

September 6, 1997.



Reference List



Cooper, Charles W. and Edmund J. Robins. The Term Paper: A Manual and Model.  Stanford:  Stanford

                University Press, 1967.


Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.  New York:  The Modern Language

                Association of America, 1995.


Sorenson, Sharon. The Research Paper. New York:  Amsco School Publications, Inc.,



Turabian, Kate L.  A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. 6th edition. Chicago:

                The University of Chicago, 1996.