PROCEDURE FOR WRITING A TERM PAPER
Alton L. Raygor
University of Minnesota
A term (or research) paper is primarily a record of intelligent reading in several sources on a particular subject. The task of writing such is not as formidable as it seems if it is thought out in advance as a definite procedure with systematic perpetration. The procedure for writing such a report consists of the following steps: 1. Choosing a subject
2. Finding sources of materials
3. Gathering the notes
4. Outlining the paper
5. Writing the first draft
6. Editing the paper
Now let's look at each of them.
CHOOSING A SUBJECT
Most good papers are built around questions. You can find subjects in any textbook. Simply take some part of the text that interest you and examine it carefully. Ask yourself the following things about it to see if you can locate a question to answer in your paper. Does it tell you all you might wish to learn about the subject? Are you sure it is accurate? Does the author make any assumptions that need examining? Can two of the more interesting sections in the text be shown to be interrelated in some useful way? Your paper is an attempt to write a well-organized answer to whatever question you decide upon, using facts for the purpose of proving (or at least supporting) your contention. The most common error made by students in choosing a subject for a term paper is to choose one that is too general. (The most specific subject will always have enough aspects to furnish a long paper, if you think about it for a while.)
FINDING SOURCES OF MATERIALS
A. Limitations. Tradition suggests that you limit your sources to those available on the campus and to those materials which are not more than 20 years old, unless the nature of the paper is such that you are examining older writings from a historical point of view. B. Guides to sources.
1) Begin by making a list of subject-headings under which you might expect the subject to be listed. 2) Start a card file using the following forms.
a) Book and magazine article:
iv. Facts of publication
v. Library call number
b) News story:
ii. Facts of publication
iii. Name of periodical
iv. Volume and page number
v. Month and year.
Sort these cards into (a) books and (b) each volume of periodicals. Then look up call numbers other periodicals and sort out those for each branch library. This sorting save library time. C. Consult the card catalog in the library to locate books - record author, title, publisher, date of publication and call number. D. Consult guides to periodicals, such as:
International Index to Periodicals
These are aids to finding articles on any subject. They list subject heading, with various titles of articles under them, together with the location of each article.
GATHERING THE NOTES
A. Examine the books and articles - several volumes at a time will save steps. Skim through your sources, locating the useful material, then make good notes of it, including quotes and information for footnotes. You do not want to have to go back to these sources again. Make these notes on separate cards for each author - identifying them by author. B. Take care in note-taking; be accurate and honest. Be sure that you do not distort the author's meanings. Remember that you do not want to collect only those things that will support your thesis, ignoring other facts or opinions. The reader wants to know other sides of the question. C. Get the right kind of material:
1. Get facts, not just opinions. Compare the facts with author's conclusion. 2. In research studies, notice the methods and procedures, and do not be afraid to criticize them. If the information is not quantitative, in a study, point out the need for objective, quantified, well-controlled research.
OUTLINING THE PAPER...
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