A teacher may require a term paper for her class, and she will give you plenty of time to work on the project. This type of research paper will often require you to use information you have learned throughout the term. A quality paper requires authoritative sources, and you should begin your research process as early as possible. This will help you take time to evaluate your sources and gather all the information you need before you start writing.
Not all sources of information are equal. When compiling your research, pay close attention to copyright and publication dates of books and articles. Research from 20 years ago may not be accurate today. As well, consider the author’s credentials to determine if the author is an expert in his particular field. If you have reason to question his experience or background, you may need to find another source. Websites that contain reader-generated information or answers to questions will not provide you with an authoritative source since the information is not always accurate.
Read through your research and make notes about the topic. Before you start writing, create an outline that will help direct your paper. Begin with an introduction and list general information regarding the topic. Then go on to the body of the paper which will contain the specifics regarding your topic. Write down the points you want to make on the subject and note which source you used to find the information. This will save you time when you begin writing your paper. The conclusion will end your paper, and this is where you remind the reader about the points you made and the importance of the information.
Citing the Sources
When you write the paper, make sure that you give credit to your sources for information that is not common knowledge. For instance, you do not have to cite a source if you state that butterflies are insects. However, if you list the number of living butterflies, you need tell the reader where you found the information. Your instructor will give you the proper way to cite since this depends on the style of writing used in your class. You also will need to create a bibliography to list the sources you referenced for your paper.
Even though you may determine a source is authoritative, your teacher may not agree. She may have discussed unacceptable resources or given you a list. Consult this handout or your notes and compare the sources. If you are not certain about the quality of a source, discuss your thoughts with your instructor. She will guide you through the process.
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- Lock Haven University: Term Paper Guidelines
- Iowa State University: Determining Whether a Source is Authoritative
- The Bedford Guide to the Research Process: Jean Johnson
- Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images