Writing a term paper can be a very challenging task, especially for first-year students. After all, research and term papers are quite different from high school essays, so the ‘old ways’ won’t work here. Given that profound research on any subject requires a lot of time, patience, and analytical skills, even grad students often experience certain difficulties with term paper writing. But the first step to solving the problem is admitting there is a problem, right? So, brace yourself for a quick list of 9 common challenges you may encounter when writing a term paper and make a note of some simple tips on how to avoid them.
1. Figuring out the Topic
Quite often, the topic of a term paper is free assigned. Most professors have a specific area of expertise, and your potential title will lie somewhere within those grounds. Some of the professors are gracious enough to offer a list of acceptable term paper topics, which makes your choice a little bit easier. Still, even if you were assigned a specific subject, figuring out what your topic means is the first challenge for any student. Why so? For starters, working on an assigned topic often presupposes a lot of research — after all, let’s be honest — not many students remember every single lecture from the class.
When trying to figure out a free topic, on the other hand, one has to aim for something neither too broad (general) nor too narrow (after all, it might be hard to present enough substantial evidence for a narrow topic). Global warming, you say? Dreadful, no doubt. Still, you will have to be more specific than that. Impact on the environment, in general? That’s better, but still ancient news. The best idea here would be to get even more ‘local.’ For example, you can study the impact of global warming on a particular country or even a coastline.
2. Researching the Information
This is the part when many students despair and contact custom term paper writing services — especially when dealing with the topic that was pre-assigned, not chosen independently. And, let’s be quite honest here — while this little ‘cheat’ may pass with one of the minor classes, it would be much wiser to complete all of the major subjects on your own. After all, you chose your college major for a reason, and giving up here is not an option.
So, what is the main challenge while researching the material? First of all, your ability to differentiate between credible academic sources and random online twaddle. Seems easy? Not quite so. Do not forget that there are plenty of decent-looking educational blogs out there. However, learn to filter the information. Sure, it might look like Mary345 has a lot to say on the matter; still, it doesn’t make her (if it is ‘her’) a reputable academic source.
3. Creating a Compelling Thesis Statement
Now, when you have your topic and some insight into the subject, it’s time to deal with a thesis statement — another huge challenge on your way. You might vaguely remember from high school essays that a thesis is the main statement of your paper, around which the whole work revolves. Well, the same is more or less true about term paper thesis. Here, however, the biggest problem is to make it acute and relevant. A thesis should not just restate the title of your paper — that would be too obvious.
Think of your thesis statement as a hypothesis that might have a potential influence on a major issue. For example, how coastline trees can slow down global warming. This way, you create a thesis that is relevant, applicable, and not too trite. Win-win!
4. Sticking to the Required Structure and Format
Many students fail when structuring and formatting their research papers. The most widespread structure goes as follows:
Cover (title page)
Abstract (up to 200 words, summarizing your work and its significance)
Main part (can be divided into up to 3 chapters)
When it comes to formatting, most colleges follow APA or MLA guidelines. Some, on the other hand, may stick to Harvard, Chicago, or Oxford formats. While the basics with each of those formats are more or less the same, the details (referencing citations, emphasizing headers, even formatting the reference page) are very different. And make no mistake, in academe, every trifle counts. If the format presupposes 1-inch margins and Times New Roman 12-point font, double-spaced, your paper should be formatted EXACTLY like this!
Here, the only word of advice would be to double check the requirements with your professor. And, of course, follow the academe rules precisely.
5. Choosing Proper Tone and Voice
Another common mistake many students make is improper tone and voice. Colloquialisms, slang, jargon — those are all examples of an inappropriate tone. Over complication and oversimplification won’t work either. The best way to cope with this challenge is to mind the acceptable tone when you research the info for your term paper. After all, you’ll be reading a lot of material on the subject before you actually start writing. So, make sure you stick to the same tone — concise, to the point, and impartial.
6. Referencing and quoting
Once again, the way you format your reference page will depend on the academic format you are supposed to follow. In MLA, for example, it is called ‘Works Cited.’ The way you structure your citations is also a bit different for each format. APA, for instance, presupposes mentioning a resource not only when citing something directly, but also when simply referring to someone else’s work. The same goes for paraphrasing someone else’s findings. Plus, always crediting the source is the surest way to avoid plagiarism.
Another important note: don’t quote too many sources; otherwise, your term paper will look like a literature review. Ideally, the total amount of quotations should be no more than 10% of your paper — preferably, even less.
Many students believe they can complete a 25-page term paper in one night. While this may technically be possible for an experienced student, freshmen have zero chance of pulling it off. Even for senior students, short timeframes are the biggest problem while working on a term paper.
What to do? Obviously, start in advance. Plan ahead. Start researching as soon as you have your topic.
8. Grammar and Spelling
No one likes a sloppy writer, and teachers usually have zero tolerance towards typos, spelling mistakes, and even less so towards poor grammar. So, remember to proofread your paper — ideally, more than once and not right after you’ve finished writing. Let it rest for some time and come back to it after you’ve rested.
9. Drawing Conclusions
The conclusion (in the case of a term paper, the results) of your work is the final, but still tricky, challenge in writing your paper. On the whole, results section is directly related to the introduction where you state your goals. However, you cannot just copy-paste the same text and substitute every “the goal is to achieve” with “the goal is achieved/not achieved.” Paraphrase, summarize your findings and remember to restate the relevance of your work.
Bottom line, if you have a headstart and are ready to put some real effort into your term paper, a B is usually guaranteed. If, however, you aspire to get the highest grade, you should keep your eye on every little detail when writing a term paper. No doubt, it’s challenging; still, 100% doable!