Writing a term paper involves 11 steps and none of them can be skipped.
- You must first select a general topic area that is of interest to you and that is worthy of a college academic level
- You then narrow down that general topic area to a more specific topic that meets the specifications of your professor for depth and length
- You then conduct your research and, at the college level, sources must include scholarly journals, books from recognized experts, and primary documents
- From your research, you will need to develop a thesis statement that puts forth an opinion or a generalized impression about the significance of the topic.
- The research must be organized into sub-topic areas that are logical and relevant to the topic
- Some type of a graphic organizer, usually a term paper outline, that will guide you as your write
- Preparation of a first draft of your paper, using your organizer as a “road map.”
- You will review and revise that rough draft, checking structure, transitions, grammar, punctuation and other mechanics
- Add the in-text citations carefully, so that they are correct and in the format required by your professor
- Prepare the end-of-text citations in the correct format
- Check the format of the paper, from title page, to headers, to pagination and margins, etc.
Research and Writing Expectations
When you were in high school, your teacher was happy if you mastered the basic skills of term paper writing – doing research, getting it organized, and preparing a paper that presented factual information about a basic topic, including putting in references according to a format style.
Now that you are in college, those expectations have changed a lot. You will need to select a topic that will require research of a different sort; that topic will have to be of much greater substance, because you will need to not just collect information but analyze it and comment on it in a critical way.
An Example of Term Paper Topics at the High School and College Levels
In a U.S. history class in high school, you may choose a topic such as the causes of the Great Depression of the 1930’s. For resources you will use books on the topic and perhaps some Internet articles. You will then organize your term paper into major sub-headings, each of which will address a single cause, and provide a factual description of that cause. For example, one cause would be a lot of risky speculation on the stock market; another cause would be that banks loaned money to easily to risky borrowers. You would provide the facts. At the end of your paper, your conclusion will summarize the main points of each cause.
At the college level, a term paper on the Great Depression will necessarily include all of the facts that would have been included in the high school piece. However, you will not get away with just that. You will need to develop a thesis based upon analysis of the causes of the Depression. Such a thesis might include a statement that the overriding cause of the Depression was the lack of appropriate federal regulations on the behaviors of banks and investment speculation. Another thesis might be that the economic conditions that resulted in the Great Depression were very similar to the conditions that existed leading up to the financial crisis of 2008, and that the only reason we did not dive into a Depression was the fact that the government bailed out the big banking institutions.
Some Guidelines for Picking Your Topic
Finding a general topic area is not a difficult task. You can find such general areas by looking through your text book or lecture notes. Narrowing it down will be the greater challenge, because you have to select good term paper topics that will meet some important criteria. And you can find help in some great places
First, the topic will have to be one you really want to research and write about. Think back about what you have read and what you have heard during lectures and class discussions. Which points piqued your interest? These things will give you a basis for selecting a topic of interest. If you choose a topic of very little interest, you will be most unhappy during the whole process – it will just be a chore.
Second, you need to make sure that your professor thinks your topic is a good one. The best way to do this is to make an appointment during his/her office hours and present your topic. Sometimes when students do this, they get valuable suggestions, both in further refining the topic, in possible theses, and even what resources to be used. There is a lot of good will to be gained by doing this too. When you end up with a topic your professor is happy about, s/he will be flattered that you took the time to seek advice and counsel.
Third, it is always a good idea to go online and to check out term papers on the same topic that you are considering. How were they developed? What were the theses statements? Were the lengths close to the length requirement of yours? You can get some good ideas when you review what others have written on the same topic – ideas such as good resources to use and organizational structure of main points.
Fourth, a great source for topics is the New York Times. If you Google term paper topics in your general topic area, you will find a large number of sites with such titles as “15 Term Paper Topics” or “Perfect Term Paper Topics.” Find the New York Times List and look through it. These topics are specifically geared for the college level.
Term Paper Topic Suggestions by Content Field
To give you an idea of topics appropriate for college students, here are a few examples that will meet the expectations of your professors.
- Use of Technology in Candidate Selection
- Servant Leadership for the Millennial Generation
- New Trends in Digital Marketing
- Transformation of the Workplace
- Is SWOT Analysis D
- Consumer On-Demand Marketplace
- Social Media as a Marketing Tool
- Threat of Live-Streaming to Major Communications Industries
- Implications of Wearable and Consumable Technology for Business
- Crowdsourcing vs. Traditional Investing
Social Sciences/Political Science
- Comparison of America’s Infrastructure with that of 3rd World Countries
- Free Trade – Implications for the Future of the American Worker
- Demise of the Middle Class
- Income Inequality – Can it Be Reversed?
- Implications of MOOC’s and Other Forms of Online Education for Traditional Private Colleges
- Equal Educational Opportunity – Is it Possible?
- Poverty in America – a Growing Concern
- Similarities Between Trump and Sanders
- Death of the War on Drugs
- Privatization of Prisons – Making Profit on Human Misery
- Politics of Gun Control
- Inequities in the Criminal Justice System
- The Dinosaur that is the Electoral College
- The Buying of America
- Revolution in Educational Delivery Systems
- Common Core Controversy
- Newer Approaches in Special Education
- Changes to Higher Education – What is Needed?
- How Technology Honors Learning Styles
- Early Childhood Education for All
- Competing with Educational Systems Across the Globe
- Meeting Needs of At-Risk Kids
- The Growing Dis-Satisfaction with Testing
- Teacher Preparation Programs – Time for an Overhaul?
- Biogenetic Engineering – Designer Babies?
- Nano-Technology in Medicine
- How the Butterfly Effects Became Real Science
- Can We Tamper with Weather Systems?
- How do We Protect Our Groundwater Systems?
- Fracking – Friend or Foe?
- The Correlation between Terrorism and Chemistry
- The Research on GMO’s – why Europe has banned them and why we have not
- 3D Printing and Artificial Body Parts
- Our Vanishing Ocean Species – Reversal Efforts
- Creating Urban Farms
- Obesity – Do We Need Regulations?
- Freedom vs. Security as a Force in History
- Wars of Opportunity – Our Present and Our Future?
- War on Terror – Reasons for Failure
- Comparisons of Socioeconomic classes at the turn of the century and today
- How was the Bubonic Plague Spread?
- China and the Great Wall – Why?
- The Issues of the U.S. Civil War Remain
- What We Did Not Learn from the Vietnam War
- The Impact of World War I on the U.S. Economy
- World War I Caused Word War II
- Origins of the conflict in Darfur
- The Politics of the Reformation
- Papal Political Power in the 14th and 15th Centuries
- Crime and Punishment as a Study of Psychology
- Literature as a Reflection of Society – a Study of Three Novels
- The Star Wars Series – Insights into Personality Types
- Edgar Allen Poe – Descent into Insanity
Of course, there are an unlimited number of term paper topics, and as society, science, politics and technology evolve, the lists will only grow. Take care as you select a topic for your term paper. Remember that you are in college now, and the topics must be far more rigorous than those you chose in high school. And they must topics about which you can form an opinion based upon your personal analysis and response to questions and issues that topics raise.