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How to Write a Term Paper

Evaluate Your Thesis and Sources

1. Remember, like your hypothesis, your thesis is not carved in stone. You are in charge. If necessary, revise it during the research process.

2. As you research, continue to evaluate both your thesis for practicality, originality, and promise as a search tool, and secondary sources for relevance and scholarliness. The following are questions to ask during research:

a. Are there many journal articles and entire books devoted to the thesis, suggesting that the subject has been covered so thoroughly that there may be nothing new to say?

b. Does the thesis lead to stimulating, new insights?

c. Are appropriate sources available? Is there a variety of sources available so that the bibliography or works cited page will reflect different kinds of sources?

d. Which sources are too broad for my thesis? Which resources too narrow ?

e. Who is the author of the secondary source? Does the critic's background suggest that he/she is qualified?

3. After crafting a thesis, consider one of the following two approaches to writing a research paper.

a. Excited about your thesis and eager to begin?

1) Return to the primary source to find support for your thesis.

2) Organize ideas and begin writing your first draft.

3) After writing the first draft, turn to the authorities for their support of your ideas. In the appropriate places, cite these sources.

4) Document facts and opinions from secondary sources.

5) Remember, secondary sources are no substitute for original thought

b. Confused about where to start?

1) Use your thesis to direct you to appropriate secondary sources.

2) These secondary sources will help you clarify your position and find a direction for your paper.

3) Keep a work-in-progress bibliography. You may not use all the sources you record, but you cannot be sure which ones you will eventually discard.

4) Create a working outline as you research. This outline will, of course, change as you delve more deeply into your subject.

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