STEP #1 KNOW THE ASSIGNMENT -Read the assigned material -Talk to the instructor
Things you must know: -Topic -Format (APA, MLA, CMS, etc.) -Length -Timetable (for outlines, drafts, etc.) -Due date -Grading criteria -Acceptable sources
STEP #2 CHOOSE A TOPIC (if one was not assigned) Hopefully your topic: -Applies to the class subject, -interests you, -is familiar to you, or -is one you want to learn about.
Test your topic with preliminary research. -Is there adequate information available? -Are there a number of credible sources available? -Is it too complex? -Is it based on solid research rather than opinion or whimsy?
STEP #3 WRITE A THESIS A thesis is the main idea that controls your paper. It is a clear statement of your position on your topic. It is not a statement of fact, a how-to, or a definition. It is an idea, opinion, or theory that you will defend and try to convince your reader to agree with.
If you have trouble forming a clear thesis, try free writing. Let yourself go. A strong thesis often emerges in the midst of random paragraphs. Do some preliminary research and then write down anything and everything that you can think of on the subject. Clustering, listing, and brainstorming are other techniques that may help you to find a thesis.
Example thesis: “Fly fishing is the most artistic style of sport fishing.”
NOT: “Fly fishing is a popular outdoor sport in America.” (This is only a statement) “Fly fishermen try to fool a fish into biting a feather wrapped around a hook.” (This is only a definition) “To be successful at fly fishing, you must do three things: find the fish, get the fish to bite your hook, and land the fish.” (This is a how-to)
STEP #4 DEVELOP AN OUTLINE An outline is a skeletonized version of your paper that lists the main topics and supporting points. It can be written in complete sentences or bullet statements, depending on your assignment and style.
Example outline: I. Artistic limits of other styles of fishing A. Lure fishing B. Bait fishing II. The art of tying flies A. 500 year tradition of standard flies B. Creating new and exotic flies
III. The art of fly casting A. Visual grace of movement B. Creativity to match conditions Conclusion: From creating a tiny fly with colorful feathers and yarn to gracefully casting it onto the water, fly fishing is unsurpassed as an aesthetic medium in the fishing world.
STEP #5 GATHER MATERIAL Find books, articles, and other resources to support your thesis. Create the bibliography or works cited.
STEP #6 WRITE AND EDIT You now have a sound thesis, so you know exactly what it is that you are writing about. You have an outline, so you have an organized logic to develop into topic sentences that control your paragraphs.
You also have a works cited and corresponding notes to draw from for support, so the hardest work is done. Congratulations! You have a great start on your term paper.