A term paper is a written assignment you have to complete over a period of one term – it serves as a representation of your academic achievement over this time and accounts for a significant portion of your grade. In other words, it is certainly a kind of academic work you should learn how to do if you want to successfully graduate.
The size of a term paper may vary depending on the task and the topic. Normally, a 10-page paper is considered appropriate, but there are no strict limitations (unless they are clearly imposed by the college). If you can write 15 pages, good for you – as long as these 15 pages are full of content and not filler. Likewise, if you are dealing with a narrow topic and manage to tell everything you wanted to tell in 5 pages, don’t try to bloat it up to a certain word count – conciseness is always preferable to wordiness, even if it makes your paper look rather short.
Marketing papers are somewhat different from the rest because they are more concerned with the practical side of things and more often deal with case studies, examples from real marketing campaigns, analysis of existing marketing practices and their application in different situations and so on.
How to Choose a Topic for Your Marketing Term Paper
As you are going to spend an entire term writing this paper, it pays to be prepared and put some thought into what topic you choose. Even if the topic is simply assigned to you by your tutor, it may be a good idea to do a bit of reading on it and, if you find a way to alter it to your advantage, discuss this possibility with your supervisor.
Don’t approach the choice of a topic lightly – it is better to spend some time reading up on it than to suddenly realize half a term later that you don’t have enough material to work on.
Here are some general principles that will help you choose a better topic:
- Read the syllabus. Supervisors always prepare detailed guidelines for word count, format, topic selection and other aspects of term paper writing – or at least they should. If you find that some instructions are missing, ask. 9 times out of 10 missing instructions are an oversight rather than an attempt to make you figure something out by yourself. Don’t take things for granted – if you’ve done a term paper before, read the syllabus just as attentively as the first time around. Requirements differ dramatically from class to class and from term to term;
- Make sure the topic is relevant. It is especially important in case of marketing, because what is considered best practices changes quickly, and a topic or idea may lose its relevance over the course of a few months. However, it doesn’t mean that old case studies won’t do – some of the older promotion campaigns can still give us valuable lessons;
- Marketing stories surround us at all sides, and promising topics can be found everywhere – you just have to make an effort to look. Newspaper articles and news websites, online marketing resources (Inc. and Forbes often publish high-quality relevant content), your syllabus, relevant journals and magazines – spend some time to skim through recent texts. If all else fails, ask your supervisor for help – you may end up with a less interesting topic this way, but there will certainly be enough sources for it;
- Generalize or narrow down your topic. Many good term paper ideas are wasted either because students try to encompass too broad topics and end up telling a little about a lot, or because they try to concentrate on too narrow topics and end up not having enough to say. A good rule of a thumb is to say what you must in your first draft and then either trim the fat or generalize to similar or related subjects.
Here are some examples of what may constitute a good marketing term paper topic:
Tired of all the guides and never-ending instructions?
- The Importance of Brand Positioning Exemplified by Nike’s “Just Do It” Campaign;
- Cartoon Network 2007 Guerilla Marketing Campaign and the Importance of Due Diligence;
- The Use of Corporate Social Responsibility to Improve Company’s Equity;
- Target Corporation’s Statistical Marketing Strategy: Efficiency vs. Ethical Concerns;
- Incorporation of Standardization by Global Marketing.
Some students rush to start writing immediately after they select a topic, believing that the faster they get something done, the faster they will complete the paper. This is a misconception – most of the time you spend working on a marketing term paper should be spent gathering sources and doing research. Writing signifies the end of your work rather than its beginning – you should make notes as you read the sources and interview people, but you should already have a definite picture of the entire paper before you start your first draft. Otherwise, you will most likely have to make extensive corrections many times over.
No academic work exists in isolation, and it is true for marketing as well. You cannot simply take a case study, analyze it and write down your conclusions. Even if your analysis is impeccable and conclusions are innovative, without the support from existing body of literature your paper won’t be accepted by the academic community.
So how should you approach hunting for sources?
- Use both primary (first-hand knowledge, documents, statistics, interviews, experiments, books, articles etc.) and secondary sources (other researchers’ interpretations and explanations of primary sources). You should understand that not all sources are equal – primary ones are more valuable, and you should use them whenever possible, resorting to secondary ones only where it is necessary. When you’ve finished gathering the sources, go over them and see if there are too many secondary ones – if they are too numerous you may want to remove a few or add a few primary sources so that it doesn’t look as if you rely on non-original sources too much;
- As a rule of a thumb, you should have 1 to 3 sources per page. So, for a 10-page paper you should have at least 10 sources, but closer to 20 for good measure. The more the better, just make sure your paper doesn’t turn into a list of quotations;
- Diversify your sources. Use a variety of resource types: articles from serious academic publications, mass media, Internet resources, case studies, statistical research, books, essays;
- Ask for your professor’s help. He has been dealing with this topic for years and knows literature that is worth reading;
- Look in online indexing and abstract databases like Business Source Complete, Emerald Insight or Factiva. They contain information on an enormous amount of top-notch business and marketing content – just by browsing the titles and abstracts of papers you will be able to understand if this or that topic has a lot of material to explore. Some of these databases require subscriptions but also offer free trial access, so make use of it. Besides, most universities and colleges provide subscriptions to a number of academic databases to their students – find out which ones you can use and don’t hesitate to do so.
In marketing, it is not enough to quote other people’s work. You have to go out and do your own market research. The most common way to do so is to carry out a market survey – i.e., collect information from a sample group of consumers that may be selected either at random or following certain prerequisites. These surveys may be product-, customer- and company-oriented, each concentrating on different aspects of research. Sometimes it may be worth posing a survey as one type but in fact carry out another – this can help you achieve interesting results unobtainable in any other way.
Marketing Term Paper Writing Tips from Our Experts
Just like any other academic assignment, a marketing term paper has a relatively fixed structure. It can vary from college to college, but usually you will have to deal with the same set of sections:
- Thesis statement;
- Body paragraphs (sometimes further subdivided into explanatory and analysis/argument paragraphs);
Let’s elaborate on them.
Outline is a detailed plan of your paper. Here you specify what you should write in each part of the paper. Pay special attention to introduction and thesis statement – they are short but extremely important as a part of a bigger picture. Body paragraphs can do with simple enumeration of main points to mention lest you forget them and logical connections between paragraphs.
Some students omit writing the outline, but it is a mistake – if you have it, you won’t forget a single point and will be able to immediately see if some parts of the paper seem illogical or disconnected.
Marketing is not different from any other academic discipline in this respect – an introduction should catch the reader’s attention and lead him up to your thesis statement. However, you shouldn’t forget that a term paper is a piece of scientific work first and foremost, which means that funny, whimsical and/or quirky introductions are out of the question. However, using a line like “My term paper is about the importance of logos in creation of brand identity” is also a bad idea.
A good middle ground is to refer to an interesting fact related to the topic of your paper that suggests the direction in which you are going to take your argument, e.g., “In 2010 Gap launched a new logo, trying to follow the trend and look more modern. It lasted for two days before they had to revert to the old one following a massive public backlash”.
Contrary to popular misunderstanding, a thesis statement doesn’t simply repeat the topic of your paper. It is an idea you’ve come to, an assertion you make after doing the research on the topic, a statement of the truth which you try to prove in your paper. It should follow a few basic rules:
- It must be a statement, not a question (“Brands are an important part of corporate identity”, not “Are brands important”?);
- It should be able to serve as a very short outline of your paper. By reading the outline your reader should be able to get the point you are trying to make – the rest of the paper is just its proof;
- It should be specific. Be as precise as possible and avoid words like “certain”, “some” etc.;
- It should be written in your own words. Don’t use quotes.
The most widespread way of writing body paragraphs is as follows:
- Introduce a new point relevant to the overall topic;
- Add factual evidence in support of this point;
- Address potential counter-arguments and explain what may look like inconsistencies in your reasoning;
- Go over the point one more time in relation to your thesis;
- Provide a logical connection with the following paragraph.
As you may see, normally you should clearly delineate paragraphs so that each deals with an individual point. It makes it easier to both write and read your paper.
When writing, follow these principles:
- Be laconic. The fewer words you use to express an idea, the better. However, don’t try to cut the unnecessary words now – you will have a chance to do it during revision. Simply keep it in mind when you arrange your thoughts;
- Avoid passive voice. (Write “Masterson proved this point in his work” rather than “This point was proved by Masterson”);
- Don’t use emotional language. Although marketing deals with emotions, you as a specialist should maintain perfect objectivity;
- Don’t overuse quotations. Although you are supposed to support your writing with existing body of research, your job is to do your own work, not recap what other people have written.
Usually conclusion is more or less a recap of the introduction: you return to your original point, refer to the evidence you’ve found and discussed in the course of a paper, decide if you’ve managed to prove your point and point out any outstanding issues that may remain.
Post-Writing Tips You Can’t Ignore
Revision is no less important than writing; probably more so. Unfortunately, many students don’t understand this and get worse grades than they potentially can with proper proofreading and revision. If you want to increase the chances of success for your marketing term paper, follow these suggestions:
- Finish early. You have an entire term to write, so try to plan your work so that you finish it some time before the deadline (e.g., a week earlier). This will give you plenty of time to correct your mistakes and rewrite passages that are particularly bad;
- Let it rest. Put your paper aside for a few days before starting to revise it;
- Don’t try to correct all types of mistakes in one go. It’s better to revise it several times, each time concentrating on a different type of problems;
- Check the paper for consistency. One of the most common mistakes marketing students make is inconsistency – in terms, in spelling, etc. Usually it concerns abbreviations and acronyms, inconsistent use of hyphens (-), en dashes (–), and em dashes (—) and spellings of individual words (labor vs. labour, labelling vs. labeling);
- Change the appearance of your paper. Either print it or temporarily change the font or its size. This will help you notice mistakes that you could have got too used to seeing by now;
- Check formatting. Consult your supervisor about the format used by your college and carefully study its requirements. If going through an entire style guide is too much for you, try an online guide like Purdue Owl – they present a shorter variant of the same.
You can learn to write high-quality marketing term paper through lots and lots of practice – but with the help of this marketing term paper writing guide, you can start out better off than most of your peers.