How To Write Research and Term Papers

Writing a term paper or research paper for class can be one of the worst things about a class for many students. But the reason it is disliked so much isn’t because of the writing of the paper itself, it’s the work that you have to do leading up to actually writing the paper that is what most students dread. Below I present you with a walkthrough of writing the best research and term papers you can and not hate the entire process.

Pick A Topic

We all enjoy doing the things we love. I love sports, so I enjoy watching and playing them. I hate the opera, so going to the opera is torture to me. The same can be applied when writing a term or research paper: pick a topic you enjoy and go from there. By picking something you enjoy writing about, much of the pain surrounding the paper will disappear.

I can remember when I was in college and had to write a term paper for one of my criminal justice classes. After a good amount of thinking, I ended up writing about arson, since the detective process surrounding that type of crime fascinated me.

How To Pick A Topic

There are various ways to go about picking a topic:

  • Skim through your textbook
  • Read journals and magazines related to the course subject
  • Surf the internet

All of these are great starting points for help with picking a topic. Of course you should also think about the things you really enjoy about the course as well. Create a spider chart where you list topics or subjects within the course that you enjoy and narrow down your focus from there.

As a last resort (or maybe even a first resort) go ask your professor. If you have an idea in mind or not, asking them can help you out greatly. They may be able to provide you with a different approach or view on your topic or even point you in the right direction for the topic itself.

Create An Outline

Once you have your topic chosen, it is time to write an outline. Some of you might be able to get by on just writing, but having an outline makes the entire process much more fluid. By writing down the things you want to focus on, you help yourself in a few ways.

  • First, you get to see if you need to include more/take things out so that you meet the required length of the paper.
  • Second, you won’t forget to include a topic or point that you wanted to make.

Trust me, I’ve forgotten to include something before and after the paper was finished, I couldn’t figure out a place to add in the idea and make it fit. Likewise, I had many times where my paper fell short of the required length and I had to scramble to add more content. Writing an outline saves you a good amount of time during the writing process and identified areas where you might need more content.


Now it’s time to begin your research. With the internet, it is easy to find all sorts of information. But be careful. Just because it is online doesn’t make it true. Be cautious with anything you find online and keep these references to a minimum. Focus more on journals and industry specific magazines and periodicals. These will provide you with plenty of information for the paper you are writing.

Edit and Revise

We all fall in love with our first drafts, but rarely are they the best we can do. Be open to revising and editing your paper. In fact, you should edit it a few times. I tend to write my work and then forget about it for a day. I then go back and re-read it to make the needed changes.

I allow the time to go by like this so that the information isn’t still fresh in my head. Many times, if I immediately re-read the paper, I will ├Čknow├« what I wrote and will glaze over spelling and grammar mistakes. I will also overlook areas where I could add more information as well.

Have Various Copies

While editing your work, make sure you have a few copies around. This means you should have your saved work on a thumb drive as well as on the cloud and a hard copy. This might sound over the top, but when I was in college, I worked in the library. Almost every time I worked, I had a student come to me asking for help retrieving a file that they could no longer access. In the event I couldn’t recover the file, they had to completely start over. At least with a paper copy you can retype the paper. Better yet is a version in the cloud so you can access it there as well.

Final Thoughts

All of these tips will help you to write the best term or research paper you are capable of. But it all comes back to picking a topic that you love. When I wrote that paper on arson, I ended up receiving a 98% on it. Why? Because I loved writing about the topic. I enjoyed researching the topic and writing it. I even enjoyed re-writing and editing it. The entire process just compounded on itself and I became more and more excited along the way.

This is why choosing a topic is so important. Do everything you can to find a topic that you really enjoy. This will make the entire process that much more enjoyable for you and might even be, dare I say it, fun.

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