Writing Term Papers: getting started

Often the most difficult part of a term paper is in knowing where to start. Once the start has been made, momentum builds up and the paper begins to develop. Time is your best friend when writing an essay or paper. So, let’s get started!

  1. Analyzing the assignment. What is the purpose of this paper? Who will your audience be? Do you have a clear understanding of all the parameters of the assignment, such as number of pages, number of sources, due date, etc.?
  2. Will you be presenting information or building an argument? Will you be comparing two things or convincing someone to take a viewpoint? There are many different types of papers, make sure yours meets the requirements of the instructor.
  3. Choose your topic and formulate a thesis statement or argument, depending on the type of paper. Your topic should fall into the category given in the assignment, if applicable. If you are on your own for topic choice, get ideas from your class materials. It should be within your field of study.
  4. Adequate research from a variety of sources will give you lots of ideas for what to include in your paper. Don’t limit yourself to only online research. There are golden gems hiding in libraries. Document all the sources you research, so that if you end up using them you don’t have to back-track to get all the references.
  5. Prewriting or brainstorming. In this stage, don’t worry about grammar, sentence structure or organization. Just start writing about all the ideas that are running through your head after doing all that research. This will give you some good raw materials to use in your paper once you begin the first draft.
  6. Look back over all you have written and also the research materials you want to include but haven’t written about yet. Take all the main ideas you can see and form them into a structure, which is the beginning of your outline. All of the smaller topics can form the subheadings.
  7. Begin writing. This phase is so much easier now that you have an outline as a foundation and lots of research to fill it in with. Find where your prewritten paragraphs fit into the outline and insert them. Do a read-through and tidy up any clumsy paragraphs. Your first draft is complete. All that’s left to do now is get a good editor and do some revisions, proofread and correct spelling mistakes.