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Writing An Academic/Term Paper

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Academic writing is an essential part of the schooling system in tertiary institutions in Nigeria and the world over.

It is a type of writing meant to test the analytical skills and language use of students. Its purpose is to provide information from the result of observation or investigation. It is written in formalities language and adheres to all forms of formal writing conventions. It is done for academic purposes, chief of which is for a good grade.

Students, from time to time, will always be given academic writing to engage in as part of the requirements to fulfill in order to pass a course or be awarded a degree. Usually, it comes with time limits.

However, one of the types of academic writing is the term paper.

What is a Term Paper?

A term paper is a type of assignment which requires a wider consultation in order to provide the information needed to the intended audience.

In this kind of academic writing, the investigations, observations, deductions and recommendations are done through the consultation of authority — that is, credible works — on the given subject. As such, all authority consulted must be properly cited in the work and referenced at the end.

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A term paper is usually time-bound and it follows a specific format. This kind of work can be submitted or presented in class.

Components of a Term Paper

It is important that the component parts of a term paper be examined so that you are fully familiarised with what is expected of you.

It is important that I inform you that a term paper is a miniaturised version of a thesis or dissertation. A thesis is a research work which students are required to conduct at the end of their academic programme as part of the requirements to complete an academic degree.

Before the components of a thesis are highlighted, the following are parts of a term paper to which you would want to pay attention:

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Body
  • Conclusion and Recommendation
  • References/Works Cited

Abstract: An abstract is a summary of the research work. It is synonymous to the blurb of a story printed at the back of the book. It tells the subject on which the research is conducted, the problems being investigated, and findings from these investigations. Similar to buyers in a bookstore, academics, researchers and students decide whether or not a term paper is relevant to what they are searching for by reading the abstract.

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Introduction: As always, the introductory part of an essay is the tool with which the attention of the reader is kept and maintained. In the introduction, the subject is introduced to the reader as well as the problem. In a thesis, the introductory part, which is the first chapter, contains the definition of terms, statement of problems etc. However, in a term paper, all these are merged into the introduction or sometimes separated using headings. Most importantly, the introduction of a term paper contains the thesis statement.

Body: The body of the term paper is where the authority on the subject is consulted and investigations carried out in order to arrive at a conclusion or recommendation. This might involve gathering or collecting data, analysing them and drawing a conclusion.

Conclusion and Recommendation: The conclusion or recommendation of a term paper is to examine the thesis of the work and whether or not it has been achieved in the body. This is also the part to give various recommendations from the conclusions derived in the investigation.

References/Works Cited: This should be confused: they mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably. They refer to a list of sources which has been cited in the body of the work.

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Sample Components of a Thesis/Dissertation

A thesis is much longer and detailed than a term paper. It is also more organised as it is divided into clearly-outlined chapters.

Below is an example of the parts of a thesis or dissertation culled from a Masters project.

Components of a Thesis/Dissertation

Components of a Thesis/Dissertation

Formatting a Term Paper

There are formats which you should adhere to (or adopt, as the case may be) when formatting your term paper for submission.

Unless otherwise stated, the following guidelines will come in handy.

  1. Font: The default font should be Times New Roman.
  2. Font Size: The font size should be 12.
  3. The pages should be double-line spaced.
  4. There should be a one-inch margin all round.
  5. Quotes (and maybe examples) should usually have a larger left margin.
  6. Headings should be emboldened and centred. If their font size is increased, they should be correspondingly so.
  7. As regards headers and footers, unless otherwise stated, adopt a regular pattern for page numbers and chapter titles.
  8. Each source cited should appear in the list of references/works cited in alphabetical order.
  9. Each item should be set to 0.5 inch hanging indent. Here is an example below:


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