Writing and Improving Your Term Paper

A paper is not a random collection of statements and ideas, but a carefully structured argument in favor of a specific opinion or proposition. The structure outlined below will help you to present your thoughts persuasively. (Think of your task as convincing a skeptical jury of the truth or plausibility of your position.) Use the headlines (here printed in red) for each appropriate section of your paper.

A.] Thesis: State clearly what you believe. Use as few sentences as possible, and as many as necessary.

B.] My reasons for holding this belief:

Reason #1.
Reason #2.

Etc.

C.] The best reasons my opponent may have against this belief:

Reason #1.
Reason#2.

Etc.

D.] My refutation of my opponent's reasons:

My refutation of Reason#1.
My refutation of Reason#2.

Etc.

E.] Summary (Conclusion) in one or two sentences.

(By using the above headlines (the ones in red), you, I, or any other reader will be able to see at one glance what you are doing in each paragraph.)

Keep in mind the idea of convincing a skeptical jury: Convince them of the importance and truth of what you want to say.

To convince a jury you have to be clear, you have to have good reasons, and you have to be persuasive. (To be persuasive you have to think of good illustrations, clever examples, etc.) A good paper is one that is capable of winning a jury over to your side.

In your generation you have the advantage of computer use, i.e., you don't have to rewrite the whole paper every time you make an improvement. You should use this advantage by improving your presentation paragraph by paragraph, and by remodeling the whole structure whenever that is necessary. Remember that good writers rewrite their stories or essays many times before they consider them done. First drafts are usually clumsy, faulty, and basically useless. You will not have an acceptable (let alone good) term paper unless you continually rethink and reformulate your thoughts--until you impress an intelligent jury or reader.