My term paper sucked! It came back covered in red. What happened?! I thought it was awesome. How can I tell if the term papers I’m handing in are of high enough quality to get me a good grade? Some simple advice, such as using an outline, visiting the student resource center and following term paper format will help you go a long way. By taking time to review some college tips for writing successful term papers, you could achieve a student advantage over others who just put words on paper.
Here’s a checklist of things to do before handing in your term paper:
1) Don’t write a high school paper.
This is college now. The tricks you learned in high school to write a paper won’t cut it in the more academic world of college. “Old formulae, such as the five-paragraph theme, aren’t sophisticated or flexible enough to provide a sound structure for a college paper. And many of the old tricks — such as using elevated language or repeating yourself — will fail you now,” noted Karen Gocsik in “What is an academic paper?” on the Dartmouth Writing Program site at Dartmouth.edu.
2) Make an outline and follow it.
So it doesn’t sound like you’re rambling through 10-15 pages, do some research first, get a good idea of what you want to write about, make an outline and stick to it. This will make your paper sound professional.
3) Ask your teacher.
Pay attention to directions if your teacher or professor tells you exactly what he/she wants: How many pages, on what topic, how many sources needed.
4) Go with your research.
Research today is easier than ever with electronic resources. In addition to Google and Bing (stay away from Wikipedia), there are Worldcat.org, InfoTrac, OneFile, LexisNexis Academic, EBSCOHost and ProQuest. You can also find professional journals and international books and periodicals. Consult your school librarian or city librarian.
5) Evaluate the credibility of scientific information.
If your paper is for a science, medical, health or engineering class, make sure your science and math are correct. No one likes sloppy science. Get your information from a credible source, not from a place that has an agenda or passes off personal experiences or public relations as real science. “Unethical lobbying groups who have particular political or business interests can take advantage of this, and work to perpetuate the disconnect between scientific and public understandings,” reported Kristen St. John in “The Need to Teach about Ethics and Science, and the Credibility of Sources,” in Journal of Geoscience Education, February 2013, found in Questia.com.
6) Don’t plagiarize.
Yes, you’ve heard it before. But it’s really true. Plagiarism gets you nowhere. You need to learn to write your own ideas in a clear and persuasive manner. And, professors are on to you — they know how to scan your paper into plagiarism detection software. Matt Petronzio’s August 29, 2012, article “How to Detect Plagiarism Online” in Mashable.com highlights ten online services that check text for plagiarism, including TurnItIn, Viper and PlagiarismChecker.com, all geared toward college term papers.
7) Check spelling and grammar.
Don’t forget to spell check. But also don’t forget to proofread your paper. Your spell checker doesn’t know the difference between synonyms and homonyms. If your grammar is a bit fuzzy or English is not your first language, ask a friend to read over your paper for good measure. A second set of eyes never hurts.
8) Use term paper format.
In addition to grammar and spelling, presentation is important. For easy reading and so the teacher has room to make comments, format your paper with:
- an easy-to-read serif font, such as Times New Roman
- one-inch margins, double-spaced text
- a header or footer on each page with your name, paper title, page number and course name
- on plain standard white 8 ½ x 11 paper (no onion skin, pink paper with hearts or resume paper).