We'll Tell You the Truth About Term Papers.
A term paper is not what your professor tells you it is.
Imagine you are a high school teacher or college professor. You are teaching a class that is all about a certain subject, and your colleagues consider you and themselves to be accomplished scholars with special insight into the subject matter. You consider yourselves to have two major talents:
1. You know how to communicate well and inspire students to work hard and learn.
2. You know how to use your vast knowledge of your subject area to contribute new ideas that have never before been discussed. You are able to make such a contribution because you are creative, inspired, and extremely knowledgeable. The reason you choose to be an educator is that you have an opportunity and responsibility to build on the ideas left by previous generations of scholars and share your new ideas with the next generation of scholars.
As a high school teacher or college professor, you feel that the term paper is a very meaningful challenge you offer to students. In your experience and wisdom, you believe that you know how to assign a paper that will challenge students to apply what they have learned during the term. Naturally, your own sense of self-worth is affected by how well your students are learning. You want students' term papers to demonstrate that they paid attention to your ideas and became inspired by them!
What the professor tells you about a term paper: A term paper is a critical essay on a topic associated with the subject matter covered during the term of study you are completing. It is an opportunity for you to solidify and demonstrate all that you have learned.
What a term paper really is: A term paper is an opportunity for you to help your professor feel a sense of fulfillment, like she or he is doing a good job and making a real difference in this world. There is nothing wrong with giving your professor a sense of validation and fulfillment. If you make her or him feel good, you are being a nice person and you will probably get an “A" on the paper.
Educators rely heavily on a model called “Bloom's Taxonomy." It's a tool teachers use for systematically helping students learn. Basically, it goes like this: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation.
First, the teacher gives the student information/knowledge by using text books and lectures. Second, the teacher ensures you comprehend the information/knowledge by using class discussion and other methods. Third, the teacher challenges you to apply the knowledge by solving problems or writing papers, taking tests, etc. Fourth, the teacher tries to get you to analyze the information, noticing patterns and developing your own ideas. Fifth, the teacher asks you to synthesize (put together) everything you have learned and express new ideas. This is a real act of creation. It is the act of creating new ideas by sharing old ideas with young humans... and watching to see what new ideas will spark forth from their wide-open, well-educated minds. It is actually very meaningful. Finally, sixth, the teacher wants to see that you can evaluate ideas discussed during the term.
Yes, evaluation is the most advanced part of the teaching/learning process. We are not talking about “evaluation" in the sense of your teacher evaluating your term paper by giving you a grade. We are talking about something called “critical analysis" and it is very important. The teacher will tell you a term paper is a critical essay about the subject matter, because the word “critical" means something like the word evaluate. It is the highest and most meaningful part of learning. It shows that you have gained some mastery of the subject matter.
Your teacher wants you to RECEIVE the knowledge she or he chose to share and gains some mastery of it so that you can apply and even evaluate it. Why is it important to understand the way the high school teacher or college professor thinks about term papers? Because s/he is the person who will grade your paper, and the grade affects your GPA, which affects your future. So pay attention to the method for helping teachers feel okay about giving you an “A" on your term paper.
Helping Teachers Feel Okay about Giving You an “A" On Your Term Paper
Okay, here is the secret. The term paper is not really a paper about the subject. It is a paper that uses the subject matter to demonstrate that you paid attention in class and appreciated the teacher's ideas. You must appreciate the lectures. You must appreciate the articles the professor chose to share with you. You must appreciate the text book the teacher chose to share with you. The teacher wants to know that you learned what she or he intended for you to learn.
Therefore, the way to get an “A" on a term paper is to keep notes by making a list of all the important ideas emphasized by the professor in class and making a list of the main idea of each class reading. It really is very easy. It is just a list of ideas. When you have a great list of ideas that you accumulate throughout a whole term of study, you can swim around in those ideas like a little kid in a ball pit at an amusement park. You can gain real mastery of the subject. Is mastery of knowledge important to you? It is important to the person whose job it is to be your teacher.
Suppose you are learning about the American Revolution and the Constitution that was written by the first leaders, the “Founding Fathers" of a new nation. Hundreds of books and articles have been written about this subject, but they cannot all be covered during this term. Your professor has chosen certain books and articles to include in the class during this term. Are you going to act like a jerk and write a term paper about other books and articles that have nothing to do with the professor's message – or worse, maybe you will you just give a nonsensical Peter Griffin style rant off the top of your head? (Many students just rant senselessly instead of expressing ideas from the class). Or are you going to give back a little, and reflect the teacher's ideas back on him or her? We hope you choose to do the decent thing; we hope you choose to show respect and appreciation for this person who is teaching you.
Attack the term paper as an opportunity to show the teacher that you appreciate the ideas shared in lectures and in the readings.
- Write about what the teacher said in the lectures: During one of the lectures, it was explained that the Founding Fathers wanted to enable the three branches of the American government to keep each other in check so none of them would be too powerful. If you phrase the sentence this way, you show the teacher that you you listened during class.
- Write about what was expressed in the class readings: Paulsen (2006) explains that there are certain ways to interpret the Constitution and some ways not to interpret it. If you phrase the sentence this way, you show that you are referring to the reading the teacher shared.
The idea is to celebrate the class and the teacher. And do not dismiss what we are saying if you have a teacher who is grumpy or uninspired, etc. Life is hard. People are all doing their best with the brains they have been given. You will have excellent teachers, and you will have stupid teachers. In every case, you can use compassion and be kind to your teacher. You get an “A" if you write a term paper that includes many ideas from the class and also your own ideas, which you form while you are writing.
A term paper is a celebration of the class created by the teacher, and it is a demonstration that you have comprehended and applied knowledge, analyzed and synthesized it, and now you are able to EVALUATE the knowledge that the teacher gave you by forming and expressing your own ideas. Does this sound difficult? It's not. Make a list of the ideas that came from the class lectures and readings, and swim around in those ideas. Write paragraphs about them. “Listen" for the voice of your mind to come up with new ideas, and share those ideas in the conclusion sentences (last sentences of paragraphs) and conclusion paragraphs (last paragraphs of the term paper).
As you finish reading this article, you can take away from it the notion of using your list of ideas the teacher shared during the term and EVALUATING ideas by offering your own opinions about them. If you are struggling to write this way, you can ask a professional writer for a demonstration. We want you to know how to get an “A" by demonstrating respect and appreciation for your teachers.
Right now, you can contact a tutor or professional writer and discuss your lecture notes and class readings. Ask for an example of an excellent term paper, because an example written by a professional can give you the insight you need, and you will achieve your goal. If you are compassionate enough to celebrate the teacher and her/his class, you deserve to get an “A" and find a lot of success.