A term paper is a writing assignment you are supposed to be writing for the duration of an entire term. Usually it deals with one of the topics involved in your course – the difference from your day-to-day studies being that you should get deeper into it than is supposed by the general course, and do individual research. To a significant extent, this is what the goal of a term paper is – to give you an opportunity to carry out independent research and demonstrate that you both possess enough basic knowledge of the topic and are capable of finding relevant sources and working with them.
A literature term paper usually deals with a particular literary work or works by a particular author, but sometimes it can be a comparative analysis of several texts, or even of schools of literature. How exactly one approaches writing such a task depends on the topic of a particular assignment, but all of them bear similarities – and this literature term paper guide will show them to you so that you never again experience problems writing literature term papers.
On average, a literature term paper writing would be about 12-15 pages long, although you should ask your instructor how long yours should be, because this value can vary from college to college.
Unless you’ve been given a specific topic to cover, the first question you face when dealing with a literature term paper is what to write about. The amount of freedom students get is different from college to college and from instructor to instructor: sometimes you are not given any choice at all, sometimes the topic is vaguely sketched for you, sometimes you are free to write about whatever you like. Whatever freedom you have, use it wisely:
Once you’ve settled upon a particular topic, it may be a good idea to ask your instructor if it is alright, in case you’ve missed some of the requirements. After all, you will spend an entire term working on it, and finding out at the end of this period that you’ve been working on an incorrect topic is not a very pleasant outcome.
Here are some examples of topics you may find useful:
Before you set about writing per se, you should take care of a few other things:
Depending on how well you are acquainted with the topic, the first two stages can go in any order.
Your thesis statement is the primary idea behind your entire paper in the form of a declarative sentence or two. It is important to differentiate it from the topic, as the topic simply defines a general area of research (e.g., the image of a faux-utopian society in Brave New World by Aldous Huxley). Meanwhile, a thesis statement expresses your views upon the subject matter, gives away the main point of your term paper (e.g., Aldous Huxley’s depiction of faux-utopian society in Brave New World had a strong impact on science fiction genre after him).
Although the thesis statement isn’t the first part of the paper and goes after the introduction (or as its closing part), it should be the first thing you write, because it defines what the rest of your paper is going to be about.
When writing it you should follow the following conventions:
There are two types of information sources you will use when working on your literature term paper: the primary source (i.e., the text at the center of your research) and secondary sources (critical articles, books and general research done by other people). A high-quality paper should contain a lot of quotations from both.
It is important to maintain balance between independent thinking and reliance on the existing body of research concerning the issue in question. Obviously, the main goal of term paper writing is to teach you how to think independently about the text you analyze, but you should at the same time be aware of the ongoing critical debate about the text.
Nevertheless, your work shouldn’t be a compilation of other people’s ideas – you should present them only insofar as they help you promote your point of view (or to try and disprove points you disagree with). Here are some useful suggestions for the work with secondary sources:
It is often said that a minute spent in planning can save as much as 10 minutes spent in writing. Depending on your style you may write down a detailed outline mentioning every point and source of information you intend to quote at each stage or a very short and basic plan only mentioning the key points – it is up to you and what is more natural for you. Here is what your outline should contain no matter what:
University-level term papers have to be written in formal style and clearly show your understanding of how academic discourse is carried out. Depending on the requirements of your particular university and instructor, the necessary style may be different, but some things are almost always present in literature term papers:
Proofreading and revision on a university level is far less concerned with grammar, spelling and syntax than it used to be in school – you are expected to have more or less flawless English by that point. What you actually have to pay attention to can be summed up in this series of questions you should ask yourself upon finishing your paper:
For better results, ask somebody else to read your paper – they will be able to provide better insights into what can be improved or removed altogether.
We hope that these literature term paper writing tips will be instrumental in assisting you with your next literature term paper!