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Writing a Statistics Term Paper: A Complete Guide

A term paper in statistics pursues the same goal as any other term paper – to teach you how to carry out independent research within the confines of a specific topic. For educational purposes, this task is limited both in time and size. As is apparent from its name, a term paper is written over the course of an academic term – the assignment is given close to its start, and a student has to gather research materials, find relevant data sets, analyze them and present his findings by its end.

The difference from term papers in other disciplines lies in the contents of the task – statistics deal with facts and dry statistical data, leaving no place for conjectures, emotional evaluations and anything else not firmly established in the realm of fact. You should both select your sources and arrange your own writing along these lines if you want your work to be evaluated positively.

An average statistics term paper is about 15 pages long; however, you should consult your instructor to know for sure what the requirements for your particular task are.

How to Choose a Topic for Your Statistics Term Paper: Ideas from Our Writers

In some cases, statistics professors will give you a topic to work with, but more often than not, you are relatively free in your choice of subject material. Topics for statistics research can come from virtually any discipline – from history and sociology to physics and mathematics. Most often, the choice of a particular discipline is what is going to be imposed on you, leaving everything else to you.

If you are given any amount of freedom in this matter, you should use it to the fullest.

  • Try to choose a topic you won’t have trouble navigating and already know where to get at least basic statistical data on. This will not just save you time that would otherwise have been spent looking for reliable information sources, but will also make the writing process per se more enjoyable and efficient;
  • Try looking at the data at your disposal from an unusual angle, probably even thinking about a less than an orthodox hypothesis to form on the basis of this information. Remember – in statistics, it isn’t necessary to prove the hypothesis you’ve put forward initially. You are supposed to provide its meticulous analysis, but the results may be either in its favor or against it. It doesn’t influence your grade – the only thing that matters for your instructor is if your analysis is sound;
  • Look through the titles of existing works dealing with the same general direction of research you intend to pursue. This will help you select a subject matter that isn’t trite and covered in a dozen almost identically named research papers already. The fastest way to do so is to run a couple of searches in several online academic databases. Microsoft Academic Search and Google Scholar are good free variants; if you need more, check with your college – many universities have subscriptions with paid databases, both universal, like JSTOR, and dealing with individual disciplines. If a particular title and its derivatives crop up too often, it may be a good idea to choose something else;
  • Try not to read other people’s works unless you are really unfamiliar with the topic of your statistical analysis. This will keep your thinking and perception of the subject matter unaffected by the opinions of other researchers, allowing you to fully express your point of view.

If you are in doubt if the topic you’ve come up with is passable, here are a few examples for you:

  • Comparing the Patterns of Carbon Dioxide Emissions in Developed and Developing Countries Over the Last Decade;
  • Correlations between the Human Development Index and Environmental Pollution Levels;
  • Correlations between Caffeine Consumption and Students’ Performance on Tests;
  • Relationships between the Results of Presidential Elections and Stock Prices;
  • Crimes Typical for Different Age Groups.

As you can see, statistics is a truly versatile discipline – it can be applied to virtually any discipline and net interesting results.

Preparation

Sources

Your instructor is supposed to discuss with you in what proportion you should use the data you’ve gathered personally and the data you’ve found in other academic sources. As a term paper is mostly an educational assignment, usually the emphasis is placed not on data collection but on its analysis – which means that it is alright if some of the data used in your paper is the result of your own work, but you shouldn’t spend too much time looking for it. Your instructor wants to check how well you understand the principles of statistical analysis, and the more effort you put in this part of the work, the better.

All in all, when working with sources you should use the following principles:

  • Don’t overdo things. Ask your instructor the minimum and maximum numbers of sources you may use. To an extent, the necessary number of sources depends on the size of your paper, but the last word belongs to the instructor, even his demands seem to be unreasonable. As a rule of a thumb you may use the correlation of at least 1 source per every page of your paper, but no less than 3 or 4;
  • Other than datasets, the majority of your sources should come from peer-reviewed academic journals. Other sources (books, articles, online resources etc.) can be used as well but they are perceived as less valuable than purely academic ones;
  • Use both primary and secondary sources. Primary ones are direct sources of information that contain first-hand data on the subject matter (reports, documents, interviews, etc.). Secondary ones are works by other researchers who studied the topic before you. Put special emphasis on primary sources – one of the main purposes of your work is to show that you are capable of independent statistical analysis of information and don’t have to rely on other people’s findings;
  • Be careful when using usual search engines to look for sources. Give your preference to special academic searches like the aforementioned Google Scholar;
  • For statistical data, use sources that have reliable governmental and private organizations behind them. For example, United States Census Bureau or the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology – with these you can be reasonably sure all the information you get there is going to be trustworthy. After all, if you use faulty statistics in your research it immediately undermines any value your work may have;
  • Avoid using Wikipedia and other public sources of information. While it can provide an excellent entry point into a topic you don’t know anything about yet, it cannot be considered to be a reliable source of information because it is open for editing to everyone – there is no guarantee that the latest edit wasn’t done by someone with an agenda concerning your subject matter.

Thesis Statement

The primary idea or point your term paper makes put into a single sentence is called a thesis statement. You should clearly differentiate it from the topic of your paper. While the topic delineates the general area of your research, (e.g., ‘Causes of Errors in Healthcare Prescription’), your thesis statement is a statement that expresses your hypothesis on the subject matter (e.g., ‘The most widespread reason for errors in healthcare prescription is inconsistency in technological information’).
The rest of the paper may support or disprove this hypothesis, and your main job is to find out the truth about it.
As for what a thesis statement should be like, make sure to follow these suggestions:

Tired of all the guides and never-ending instructions?
  • Keep it no longer than one medium-sized sentence, two at the most;
  • Be specific, laconic and unambiguous. Your thesis statement should make it immediately obvious for anyone who reads it what your paper is about and what you are trying to prove, without any potential for miscommunication;
  • Make sure it consists of a single statement and doesn’t sprawl into two or more, even if they seem to be fairly well connected. If you cannot bring it down to a single point, in most cases it means that your paper lacks focus, and you will have trouble working with it;
  • Reread it critically after you finish writing. The results of your statistical analysis can make it necessary to alter it.

Outline

An outline is a plan of your paper that you need to prepare before you start working on the main body of your assignment. Some students believe this stage to be excessive as long as they keep the primary elements of their work in their heads, but practice shows that every minute spent planning can save you a lot of time, effort and nervous energy later on. It guarantees you won’t have to rewrite anything in a hurry and simply put every thought on paper where it should be.
Outlines come in two basic varieties:

  • Short or topic outline – every segment of the paper and each body paragraph is expressed by a couple of words denoting its topic;
  • Detailed or sentence outline – parts of the paper are expressed with complete sentences. This approach is generally used in larger assignments, but you are free to use it anywhere you like if it is more in accordance with your style.

Writing

  • The optimal order of writing is to start with a thesis statement, follow up with the body paragraphs, then write a conclusion and finish everything up with the introduction. It may seem counterintuitive, but in reality, your perspective is likely to change many times throughout any research, and if you start with an introduction you will probably have to rewrite it from scratch;
  • Don’t explain the fundamental principles of statistical analysis. Your term paper should assume that the reader is well familiar with the procedure and doesn’t need explanations. You should only provide them if you take some unexpected or unusual steps in the course of your research;
  • Limit yourself to one idea per paragraph. Statistics term papers are complex and full of different types of data, which means that you should use every opportunity to make yourself clearer. By using a single idea per paragraph, you make it obvious for the reader how your argument is structured, and your paper becomes easier to follow. Keep the structure of each paragraph consistent with the rest of the paper: the first sentence explains what the paragraph is about, the rest dig deeper into the subject and explain things;
  • Check if your readers can effortlessly reproduce the procedures you used to achieve your results. You can do this by asking one of your peers to read through your paper and tell you if they understand enough of it or need any additional data to reproduce your work process. If they cannot, you should add everything necessary to fill in the blanks.

Proofreading

A statistics term paper writing submitted without first going through rigorous proofreading and revision is incapable of fulfilling its full potential. You may be sick and tired of your assignment by this point, but if you hand it in as it is, you are doing yourself a poor favor.

The following statistics term paper writing tips will make revision faster and more efficient:

  • Read the style guide and consult your instructor before setting about revising the paper. If the style guide contradicts direct instructions anywhere, make sure you follow what your instructor says when correcting the mistakes;
  • Ask one of your peers to check your paper (perhaps in exchange for a similar favor) for flaws. As the author, you miss many potentially very bad mistakes;
  • Eliminate everything inconsistent with the style appropriate in a statistics paper. That means all emotional language, colloquial expressions, contractions, jargon, slang and so on;
  • Check your paper for the signs of bias and biased language. Ask the peers who read your paper if they can notice anything of the kind. Can they accuse you of being subjective? If the answer is affirmative, make the necessary changes;
  • Check your paper for consistency. Do you use the same terms and expressions when referring to particular concepts throughout your text? Don’t try to use synonyms or paraphrases – statistics is primarily concerned with the exactness of information, not the beauty of language.

Statistics assignments are complicated and may be difficult for those who aren’t used to them; we hope that this statistics term paper writing guide will be enough to help you deal with your next job of this type!