Term Paper Tutorial

How to Write a Term Paper

            Term papers are popular in high school and college. Many professors request them. Some are only a few pages, but they can run to 20 pages or more. It depends on the class and the instructor. If you haven't had to write a term paper before, creating one can seem scary and even overwhelming. Fortunately, there are steps you can follow to make sure you create the best possible paper and get a good grade. 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.


1.  Choose a Few Good Topics to Investigate

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'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

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. 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.

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

Even if your professor doesn't require an outline, you should create one to use when you write your paper. That way you'll be more clear about the specific direction your paper is taking and will stay focused and on task as you're writing. You don't want to start writing your paper, lose direction, and end up rambling or saying the same thing over again. Your paper should start out strong, move through the points you want to make, and wrap up. An outline can help you make sure you do that cleanly, and also ensure that you don't forget something important and end up leaving it out of your paper.

5.  Write Your Introductory Paragraph

Create your introductory paragraph first. It 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 your paper, and that is usually placed at the end of the introductory paragraph. Once you get that paragraph completed, you can move on to the body of the paper and start making your points.

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

Don't get ahead of yourself. 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. 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. Take care not to change focus in the middle of a paragraph, either, because that can also confuse the reader and make your paper seem choppy. Make sure you use good transition sentences when moving from one subtopic or idea to another, too, so 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 of your paper should be your conclusion, and that's the only thing you should put into that paragraph. Don't introduce any new information there, as that should have all been done in the body of the paper. The last paragraph should only be a wrap-up of everything you wrote about in the term paper, and should 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.

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

Don't forget about your reference page. 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. Follow the guidelines for whatever style of citation your instructor wants you to use. 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.

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