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How to Write a Communications Term Paper: A Complete Guide

When assigned a communications term paper to write you are given an entire term to work out your topic, do research, find the necessary information and put the results in writing. It may seem like you have a lot of time to do it – but it is plenty of work as well. The writing alone is likely to take a lot of time (term papers are often 6000 words long, sometimes longer). A communications term paper should present a sufficient amount of original research, which means that you cannot fully rely on outside sources.

If you are given this assignment to work as a part of a group, it may involve even more problems, because collaborating with other people is always more difficult than doing things on your own – you have to rely on others to do their parts of the job. As your term paper is going to be responsible for a significant portion of your grade, you should start paying attention to this job early on. These communications term paper tips will help you organize your efforts in the right direction.

Choosing a Topic: Samples & Ideas from Our Writers

When you write an essay in college, the topic is usually assigned to you. With term papers, things are usually different – you choose the topic yourself, although with an input from your instructor. Ideally, you should talk things over with him and select something that will both be interesting for you and acceptable from his point of view – after all, your instructor has already seen dozens if not hundreds of students’ terms papers and knows which kinds of topics work and which do not.

As you are going to spend an entire term writing this paper, don’t take this choice too lightly, lest you find out that with the topic you’ve selected you a bit more than you can chew and it is already too late to swap it for something else. Here are some recommendations that can help you:

  • Look for something you have interest in. Firstly, you probably already know a fair amount about this subject and can save time you would otherwise spend digging for information. Secondly, the quality of one’s writing is always higher when one writes about something he is fascinated with. If you cannot think about a specific topic, try at least to delineate a general area you would like to explore (e.g., development of communication skills in children);
  • Try using online academic oriented search engines (Refseek, PubMed, iSeek to name a few). Some of them are discipline-specific, others are general purpose, but all are useful both to search for sources of information and to have a look at the existing body of research on this or that topic. Looking through their results can help you find a topic that has a fair amount or research on it but still has bits you can dig in without repeating existing works;
  • Once you’ve decided on the general area you want to cover, narrow your topic down to something more manageable. Don’t be overenthusiastic, though – too narrow a topic is just as bad as a too broad one, as you may find it difficult to find viable research dealing with it;
  • Make sure that the topic you’ve settled down on contains a question (direct or implied one). The thing is, a communications term paper isn’t a comment on something or a description of an existing situation in the research on this or that topic. It is your original work, in which you study the situation on your own and present your findings – and findings are impossible if there weren’t any questions asked beforehand. Thus, “Body Language” isn’t a very good topic as it doesn’t contain a question. “The Role of Body Language in Successful Communication”, however, is a much better choice, because it implies one: Is body language important for successful communication?
  • Talk your topic over with your instructor, and do it as early as possible to have an opportunity to research and choose another one if need be. Your instructor will be able to point out potential problems with your topic that you don’t see right now, and unless you are positive you can deal with them you should better listen to what he has to say – he has much more experience dealing with this sort of thing.

Eventually, the topic you select should meet two basic criteria: be narrow enough to research it more or less exhaustively in your allotted word count and be broad enough to offer a sufficient research discourse to build upon. Here are some examples of what you may be looking for:

  • Factors Influencing Development of Communication Skills in Children from Birth to Five Years of Age;
  • Communication Apprehension in Group Videoconferencing;
  • The Role of Technology in Human Communication in the Mobile Age;
  • What Influences the Development of Conflict Resolution Skills in Children;
  • Discourse Analysis of Everyday Speech.

Gathering and Researching Sources

One of the most important skills for a researcher in the field of communication is critical reading and analysis of the existing body of research. There are three basic reasons why it is so important:

  • You won’t be able to produce a high-quality term paper with novel findings in your field if you don’t know the current research on the topic you’ve chosen;
  • Critical analysis of the works by other researchers teaches you to notice strong and weak points in their argumentation – a skill you can successfully apply when reading your own work. Knowing where and how other people make mistakes will help you avoid them in your term paper and foresee potential counter-arguments to your reasoning;
  • You should take every bit of information with a grain of salt – sources vary greatly in quality and veracity, and only prolonged experience in critical reading can teach you how to distinguish between trustworthy and untrustworthy ones.

The quantity of sources doesn’t always translate into quality – don’t be tempted to use a source just to add an extra item to your Works Cited page. If it (or, worse yet, a number of them) turns out to be low-quality, it can negatively affect the value of your entire term paper. If you’ve chosen your topic carefully, there should be more than enough viable sources for it, so don’t be greedy.

Tired of all the guides and never-ending instructions?

Where to Look for Sources

Here are some good places to start:

  • The reference section of your textbook. Look through the reference section for the chapter dealing with the general research area you are writing about and see if there are any suitable sources there. You can repeat this trick with any other source you find;
  • Reading list for your course. If you’ve selected a topic at all relevant to the course you are taking, you are likely to find some good specimens here;
  • Online academic databases like JSTOR and EBSCO. They contain not just the titles of the books and articles but also a host of useful information on them, like when they were published, how many times they were referred to in peer-reviewed papers and so on. This data is an excellent indication of a source’s relative quality;
  • Librarians and your instructor – ask those who work with sources on a regular basis. Chances are, they can offer you exactly what you need.

How to Evaluate Sources

As we’ve already stated, sources vary greatly in terms of usefulness and trustworthiness. In order to avoid relying too much on sources that can later turn out to be dubious, you should ask yourself the following questions before putting any trust into any of them:

  • Is the author qualified? Is he a specialist in the field he is writing about? Does he have any relevant credentials to prove his qualification? Is it possible to get in touch with him to get a comment on his work? Does he have any other publications on the same or a close topic (look for them using several different search engines)? Is this person referred to by any other credible sources?
  • Who published the source? What is the source of the publication? Does it have any sponsors or affiliations that may be interested in the one-sided presentation of the subject matter? Does the publisher take responsibility for the content it publishes?
  • Is it possible that the author is biased in any way? Are there any signs of explicit or implicit bias? Is the author’s language emotional? Does the author belong to an organization that may have a biased view on the subject? What is the source’s purpose? Is it to inform or to persuade?
  • Are the author’s methods sound and appropriate? Check the methodology page for possible inconsistencies or poorly chosen methods (taking the subject into account).
  • Does the author provide sufficient data to prove his conclusions? Is there enough evidence to back up the author’s assumptions?

Writing

Introduction and Conclusion

These two parts are written more or less the same as in any other academic writing assignment. The introduction states the problem, does its best to grasp the reader’s attention and smoothly leads on to the thesis statement. The conclusion sums up the paper, states whether the initial hypothesis was proved or disproved and clarifies whether any subsequent research in this area is in order.

Thesis Statement

Thesis statement summarizes, in short, the main point of your communication term paper. The main things to consider here are as follows:

  • It should be short – usually one sentence, no more than two;
  • It should contain a single most important point of your paper. What do you try to prove? What is the main finding of your term paper?
  • It should be definite – no ambiguities, no vagueness.

Body Paragraphs

Communication term papers have a standard of writing every student has to follow.

  • All paragraphs should be written in more or less the same fashion: first, you introduce the new point, then provide evidence to back it up (quotations, statistics, interviews, etc.), then deal with potential counter-arguments and finalize it by summarizing the point and connecting it back to the thesis statement;
  • Be laconic. The fewer words you use, the better. If anything can be said shorter than it is, rewrite it this way. However, the key is to remain understandable – don’t strive for brevity for the sake of brevity, just trim the fat;
  • Don’t use emotional language. What you write is a work of science, not fiction, there is no place for emotions, bias or anything else of the kind;
  • Use quotations sparingly, especially direct ones. The words of other researchers, however well-reputed, aren’t considered sufficient evidence in science. You should focus on facts, statistical data and repeatable experiments and not on what other people say about them;
  • Don’t use the first person in your writing. Phrases like ‘I think’ and ‘I believe’ are too personal and have no place in any research writing, writing on communication included.

Revision

You may be quite tired of your paper by the time you finish it, but the first draft never means the end of work – at least if you want to achieve good results. In order to produce a truly memorable communication term paper, you have to put it through revision.

  • If possible, give yourself at least one full day to simply have a little rest from this work. You will be able to see your paper with fresh eyes and find more mistakes this way;
  • Ask a friend or a peer for an opinion about your paper. Make sure to choose somebody who you can trust. Ask them if parts are connected logically, if all chapters of the paperwork as intended, if they have any more constructive criticism to impart;
  • Read your term paper aloud. Quite often this allows you to notice flaws that remain hidden when presented in text form;
  • Don’t be afraid of cutting whole paragraphs. More isn’t always better – if your paper works better without something, remove it, even if by itself it is a fascinating piece of information;
  • Consult with your style guide and check if your paper complies with it.

We hope that this communications term paper guide will help you prepare and write your next term paper – good luck!