How to Write a Good Term Paper (Updated for 2021)

How to Write a Good Term Paper (Updated for 2021)

What Is a Term Paper?

Term papers are popular assignments in high school and college. They are typically longer assignments than regular essays, and allow you to do in depth research. Many professors request term papers at several points throughout the year, especially at the ends of each term, to assess your learning. A term paper can be about any subject, from the sciences to the arts. Therefore, it is a good idea to learn how to write a good term paper now.

As with other types of academic papers, a term paper generally has an introduction, body, and conclusion. This article will show you how to write a good term paper, how to pick the right subject for a term paper, and how to get the best help when you need it.

Why Are Term Papers Different from Essays?

When you write a term paper, you will usually be expected to do research, and show what other people have written about the subject. However, a term paper should also show independent thought. A term paper is not regurgitating what other people have said, as with many types of research papers and reviews of literature. Rather, a term paper calls on you to present your findings with some new insight or awareness. For this, you need to come up with a strong idea or central argument.

How Long is a Term Paper?

Many students are frightened by the prospect of writing term papers because they can be longer than a regular essay assignment. Do not despair. Not all term papers are long. Some term papers are only a few pages long, but it is true, they can run to 20 pages or more. The length of a term paper depends on the class and the instructor.

If you have never written a term paper before, creating one can seem scary and even overwhelming. When you have trouble writing your term papers, always seek help from qualified writing tutors either in person or online. You can also view samples of other people’s term papers to help you with your work.

How to Get Help With Term Papers

Fortunately, there are steps you can follow to make sure you create the best possible paper and get a good grade. Viewing other people’s good term papers can help you structure your own and improve your writing in the future. You may also receive help with term papers to help you narrow down your subject or conduct research.

Following a plan to write your term paper can also help you reduce anxiety and stress, and being more comfortable will contribute to a higher-quality, well-written paper. The first thing you need to know when writing a term paper is how to pick a topic and come up with a good thesis statement. Then you can think about how to organize and format your term paper, proof read it, and prepare it to turn into your class.

Term Paper Topics

The following sample topics should give you a good idea about what to write about in different subject areas.

  • The causes and effects of the American Civil War.
  • The history and evolution of the sport of lacrosse.
  • Why female executives earn less than their male counterparts.
  • Historical trends in fashion design in Japan.
  • The major industries contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Three leadership theories and how to apply them.
  • Causes of schizophrenia.
  • Religious iconography in medieval Dutch art.
  • Tracing the origin and evolution of noodles from China to Italy.
  • The ethical questions posed by genetic testing.
  • Should Bank of America buy Citigroup?
  • Global influences on European jazz.
  • Is outsourcing ethical?
  • Aesthetics and concepts of beauty in different cultures around the world.
  • Gender roles and norms in Nigerian society.
  • The rhetorical strategies used by Martin Luther King.
  • Defining the proof for the historical Jesus.
  • The politics of race in Brazil.
  • Symbolism in the works of James Joyce.
  • The influences of Mughal India outside the subcontinent.
  • Possible solutions to the Middle East crisis.

Term Paper Format

The format of your term paper will vary considerably depending on the subject and the preferences of your professor. Usually, your term paper will include a title, an introduction, a body, a conclusion, and a list of references or works cited. However, check with your instructor for specific guidelines and preferences.

In many cases, the term paper format will also include subheadings. Subheadings divide longer term papers into smaller sections, almost like chapters in the book. Using subheadings helps you to organize your research better and creates a better flow for your ideas.

Short term papers may not need subheadings. The following basic term paper outline shows you how to structure your work into three main parts: the introduction, the body, and the conclusion.

Term Paper Outline

I. Introduction

A. Start with an interesting sentence or two that grabs the reader’s attention, such as an astonishing fact, statistic, or anecdote.

B. Discuss why the topic is important.

C. Present your thesis statement.

II. Body

A. Discuss the main points you are trying to make, based on your research.

B. Refer theory and to practical applications as you go about analyzing all the evidence.

C. Include references to primary and secondary sources in your analysis whenever possible.

III. Conclusion

In the conclusion to your term paper, ask yourself some questions:

A. What have you learned? What do you hope the reader has learned?

B. Where do you go from here? Do you have any advice for future research or how to apply what you learned?

Sample Term Paper Outline

I. Introduction: Every year, millions of United States veterans experience the symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and depression with often devastating consequences. The suicide rates among veterans is higher than it is among the general population; by some counts, the suicide rate among veterans is almost twice as high. Therefore, it is important to study the ways the veterans’ health care system is failing and what can be done to provide early intervention and treatment.

II. Subheading: The Prevalence of Suicide Among Veterans

III. Subheading: Stigma Against Mental Health Care Among Veterans

IV. Subheading: How to Raise Awareness about Mental Health Among Military Leaders and Promote Mental Health Care

V. Subheading: The Importance of Changing Organizational Culture in the Military to Promote Mental Health

VI. Subheading: Providing Effective Mental Health Screenings After Discharge

VII. Subheading: Pilot Projects and Case Studies That Have Proven Effective in their Communities

VIII. Subheading: Suggestions for Public Policy

IX. Conclusion: Based on evidence and theory, the stigma against mental health is the primary impediment for veterans suffering from PTSD and other mental health problems. Early intervention is critical, which is why the military needs to provide more regular screenings both for active duty members and for veterans after discharge. With a few changes to public policy and freeing up funding, the Veterans Administration can save American lives.

Steps For Writing a Good Term Paper

1.  Choose a Few Good Topics to Investigate

Before you launch into your term paper, spend some time brainstorming. The brainstorming process helps to loosen up your mind, freeing you from cognitive constraints and anxiety. Simply allow yourself to think creatively and openly about different subjects so that you come up with a topic that interests you. You will have a much easier time writing about something that interests you than something that does not, unless your term paper topic has been decided for you.

When you're trying to decide what to write about, there will probably be several different topics that interest you. They might be completely different topics, or they might be different parts of the same topic. Make sure you come up with at least three or four things you're interested in, and write them down. You could even go through your textbook for some ideas.

You'll end up choosing only one to write your term paper on, but you want to make sure you have some options at first. If you choose only one topic right away and it doesn't work out, you have to go all the way back to the beginning again and start all over. That's best avoided.

2.  Gather Research on Your Topics

The foundation of a good term paper is research. Before you start writing your term paper, you need to do some preliminary research. Take your topics with you to the library or the Internet, and start gathering research on all of the topics you're interested in.

Take a look at what you can find on each of the topics you're considering, to see what you'll have to work with if you choose a particular topic. You might find that some topics offer much more available information than others, which will help you decide what you are writing about.

You might also find that your topics are too broad to make a good paper, and you need to narrow them down a little bit in order to make them easier to write about. The research you're doing will help guide you if you're narrowing or changing topics. You can also seek help from your professor or a writing tutor during this stage of the term paper research process.

3.  Narrow Your Focus and Select Only One Topic from Your List

As you begin to narrow down your focus, one topic will stand out from the rest as the right choice from both an interest and information standpoint. That's the one you'll want to choose to write your term paper about. It's interesting to you, and it's something you can find plenty of research and information on. Those are both important when you're going to be creating a term paper. You don't want to be making things up to fill space, so you have to find a topic that has enough information to fill the number of pages you've been asked to write. Choosing a topic that interests you also makes writing about it easier and more fun, and you'll produce a better paper that way.

4.  Outline What Your Paper is Going to Include

Outlining means organizing your thoughts. You do not have to create a formal outline for it to be useful. A quality outline can just as easily be a drawing or word map. Even if your professor doesn't require an outline, you should create one to use when you write your paper. With an outline, you can become clearer about the specific direction your paper is taking and will stay focused and on task as you're writing.

If you do not have an outline, your thoughts could be too disorganized, leading to frustrations as you write. Most expert writers know that writing without an outline can waste time, and your term paper could take twice as long. Therefore, you don't want to start writing your paper, only to lose direction, and end up rambling or saying the same thing over and over again. An outline prevents most of the problems students make when they are new to writing term papers.

Your paper should start out strong, move through the points you want to make, and wrap up. An outline allows you to envision the entire paper from start to finish, just as a professional athlete visualizes how they are going to win a race. With an outline, you can get to the point where you already know what you are going to say and the writing flows from there. An outline can help you make sure you write cleanly and coherently, so that you can get the best possible grade. When you work from an outline, you also ensure that you don't forget something important and end up leaving it out of your paper.

5.  Write Your Introductory Paragraph

Now comes the fun part. You begin writing your term paper by creating a strong introduction. To write the introduction, draw upon the emotional reasons you are interested in this subject. Create your introductory paragraph first, to allow you to communicate the purpose of the term paper.

The introduction should tell the reader what you're going to address in your paper and give a little bit of background on the issue you're addressing. You should also have a thesis statement that sums up the main objective your paper. The thesis statement is usually placed at the end of the introductory paragraph. Once you get the introduction completed, you can move on to the body of the paper and start making your points.

Depending on the length of the term paper, an introduction can be one paragraph or several. A longer term paper might require a longer introduction, so that you can give the reader valuable background information, or tell a story that illuminates the purpose of the subject. However, shorter term papers require only a paragraph leading the reader to your main points. Your introduction will be proportional to the rest of the term paper.

6.  Move Through the Body of the Paper One Paragraph at a Time

Don't get ahead of yourself. Work as methodically as possible, sticking to your outline so you remain focused. Do not rush, even if you feel you are under pressure. You'll want to work your way through each paragraph of your term paper carefully, so you don't start making mistakes or leaving out important information that your readers will need or expect.

Each one of the paragraphs of your paper should be either a different subtopic or a transition to a different idea, so you don't blend everything all together and confuse people reading the paper. Using subheadings can help you organize your paper effectively.

Also, take care not to change focus in the middle of a paragraph either. Rambling and veering off topic can confuse the reader and make your paper seem choppy. If you need help writing your body paragraphs in your term paper, make sure you seek help from a qualified writing tutor.

Most readers like it when you use good transition sentences in your term paper. A transition sentence will link one paragraph to the next, so that the ideas flow smoothly when moving from one subtopic or idea to another. The transition sentences are like connecting the dots. With transitions, your paper has a good flow to it. That can make it much easier and more interesting to read.

7.  Create a Strong Conclusion Paragraph

The last paragraph or section of your paper should be your conclusion. As with the introduction, the length of the conclusion will vary depending on the length of the term paper. A longer term paper can have a conclusion that is several paragraphs long because you need to provide the reader with suggestions for applying the research, such as making changes to public policy.

A conclusion also leaves the reader—and you—with a sense of closure. There are no loose ends. You did what you set out to do, nothing more and nothing less. You do not want to introduce any new ideas here, but you can talk about potential for future research based on what you learned.

A solid conclusion to a term paper should also be a wrap-up of everything you wrote about in the term paper. You can reiterate some of your main points, discuss the importance of the subject, and ultimately end on a strong note. Take some time to come up with a good concluding sentence or two, so your reader doesn't feel like he or she has been left hanging. A writing tutor can help you design the perfect conclusion if you are struggling.

8.  Make Sure You Create a Reference Page in the Proper Style

A References page, also known as the Bibliography or Works Cited page, is an essential part of every term paper. Don't forget about your reference page! You could get accused of plagiarism if you do.

The references page includes all the external sources you used to compose your term paper. It doesn't matter if you used two sources or 50 sources, you need to make sure they're all on your reference page in addition to being cited throughout the body of the paper. Give credit where credit is due; you would always want someone to do the same for you. The References page also shows the reader that you did your research, and di not simply make up all the information in your term paper.

Follow the guidelines for whatever style of citation your instructor wants you to use. The most common citation formats include APA, MLA, and Chicago style[A1] . If the choice is up to you, choose the one you're most comfortable with and make sure you're consistent with citations in the paper and on the reference page, so you don't end up losing points over something that could have easily been corrected or adjusted before you turned the paper in.

9.  Edit, Proofread, and Edit Again

Don't underestimate the need to proofread and edit. Even if you write well and you're really happy with your paper, the chances are high you can make some changes that will improve it. One of the best ways to find problems with your paper is to read it out loud and see how it sounds to you. You'll catch mistakes much easier that way, and you'll be able to fix them quickly and move on.

10.  Make Sure You Have a Good Title and the Right Formatting

Before you turn in your paper, spend some time creating a title that's professional but will catch your reader's attention. Also, make sure your paper is formatted the way your professor wants. It's not just about the citation and references. The line spacing, margins, and other formatting issues also matter. If you've been given specifics and you don't follow them, it can really hurt your grade, even if you write a good paper otherwise.


  • Plagiarism can get you a failing grade. Make sure you cite your sources correctly throughout your paper and create a good reference page.
  • Get started early. Don't wait until the last minute to work on your paper, because you'll be rushed and the end product won't be as good.
  • Have a friend or family member read your paper, and see if they have questions or don't understand something. A fresh set of eyes can really make a difference when editing a paper.


Congratulations! You now have a better idea of what a term paper is and how to write a good one. Now you are ready to start your term paper. If you need help at any stage of the writing process, always seek help from a qualified professional who can help you. Writing a term paper is something you will have to do again and again as a student. It pays to have a positive attitude, and even enjoy the process because most professors will require you to write a term paper.

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