I have written my share of term papers and I have been able to find several shortcuts along the way. They are shortcuts in the sense that they will help you compile your paper in a quicker, easier way. There isn’t any real shortcut, as I am sure you already know. The title was just a way to get you to come in, sit down, and sift through the help I can give you. I am a student just like you. Unlike many of you I am on my second degree and am in the autumn of my years, or to be more literate, my fifties,-so since time is not as long, I find it best to make tasks as simple as possible. My sub headline was “For Students Who Hate to Write” You know what? I hate to write term papers, too. For someone who is creative and loves the freedom and flow of writing ideas about all kinds of subjects, term papers are tedious and many times boring-but they are what they are. So, stay with me now and read my five ‘shortcuts’ to writing term papers.
In The Beginning – There is a syllabus. I make certain to make note of the deadline for a term paper the minute I receive my syllabus. This gives me a time frame in which to organize my work. Hopefully, knowing a deadline will prevent me from writing my term paper the weekend before it is due. But then, we never know, do we, dear reader? The sad part about trying to work in this way is our unknown variable- the instructor- many will state, they will “let you know, later” the complete requirements, number of sources, amount of pages, and in some cases, the actual subject of the paper. Online class instructors are notorious for using this method. Don’t get me wrong, I love online classes. They are flexible, and are easy to place with heavy and busy schedules. But, I have to say that many of the instructors leave a lot to be desired. My theory is that their accountability is not as strong. No faces in the crowd waiting expectantly to be taught. No hands raised, asking for dates, deadlines, formats and all the things that make a paper, a paper. Be this as it may, get the deadline and begin organizing, using the date as the target.
And then there is the Library-and its website. As soon as I have decided upon a subject or have it handed to me by my instructor- I place a search for that subject with my local library. I will then put on hold 4-5 books that pertain to the subject. Instructors seem to sneer at using internet sources, and if they do allow them, they usually require academic journals or professional web sites, such at the National Institute of Mental Health. I have never understood why they will not allow that email you received from Aunt Betty describing the actions of the area milkman while dressed in a woman’s outfit at the county fair-but then again, I do not write requirements -only follow them. I do as I am told!
Get Close to the Librarian. They are simply the best resource. They will run searches for you-help you find related materials and also compile lists of books, magazines, and journals that pertain to your subject matter. They will also advise concerning the best and worst resources. This can be invaluable-because it cuts time. My local library has a service known as Ask a Librarian. You can write to them by email concerning any subject, they will put books on hold for you, do research, and advise, all online. Big help and big shortcut!
While you are at this remember to pick up a resource book on citing sources. This will be helpful for format later. When your instructor lists requirements he will also state which way to cite sources.
Now you are up for your First Draft. Outline those subject areas that you want to highlight. For example, if you are doing a life of Bob Crane, part of the paper will be chronological so that will be one area, then his career with Hogan’s Heroes would be another, etc. For each of these areas define what will need to be cited. This can be extremely tedious-so make sure you have allowed a block of time in a quiet area for this part of your project. After you have the sources that will be a part of your paper, write a quick first draft. During this process cast care to the wind and just write whatever comes to mind (in relation to the subject matter, please). This is for placement and layout.
-Now you have all the building blocks for your paper; sources, cited passages, and a first draft. All you have to do now is polish and complete – and make sure to follow all the instructors’ requirements for the submission process.
Polish once. And then polish again. And then have a friend read it. And then polish again. Pull together the blocks of your paper by tightening the first draft and inserting your citations. If you need help with citations go to the Landmark Project website at http://citationmachine.net. This is a fantastic resource. You plug in the information requested for the process of making the citation and viola’ a completed citation appears!
Oh, I guess that is a shortcut. Dang me! Now you believe the paper is perfect. It isn’t. Have a friend read through it. Another pair of eyes will find faulty phrasing and imperfect grammar. They will also help you get the paper where it needs to be. As perfect as possible.
These steps should have you in fairly good shape along the path of writing a term paper. I am not an expert at all. I am someone who has written a ton of these monsters and have survived to pass along what I have learned to you because I feel your pain.
Just remember a few things.
Each and every instructor has their own way of receiving papers. They will draft a process when giving instructions for the paper and they want them carried out verbatim. Do as you are told!
Writing term papers for people who hate to write or don’t think they can write can be overwhelming. There are people and organizations that buy and sell term papers- we all know it-but DON’T DO IT! Beyond the fact that we all know it is unethical and just wrong, you will probably get caught. Most professors are on to this scenario and have software programs that can detect plagiarized papers. So, gentle student, 1) Start early 2) Enlist the aid of your local librarian and 3) Know you can do it, and do it well. Writing is not a gift, really, it is damn hard work.