How to write a term paper. Full writing guide with expert tips and tricks

How to write a term paper: practical guidelines

Term paper is possibly the most challenging of all college assignments. Writing a term paper requires outstanding planning and discipline to avoid rushing through the task deciding the fate of your course grade at the last possible moment. A failed term paper can mean a failed or incomplete class you’d have to make up for the next term.

To help you overcome this hurdle and earn the much-needed credit, SpeedyPaper writers share actionable tips and advice on completing term papers.

What is a term paper?

A term paper is a typical academic writing assignment designed to assess your understanding of the overarching themes learned throughout the term. Most professors announce the term paper requirements early in the semester and give you a few weeks or months to complete it. Typically, term papers are five to twenty pages long, depending on the class, instructor, and topic.

According to the definition of a term paper, it can only be assigned once per term for each class, but you can have two or more term papers within a semester across different courses. On the other hand, professors can assign multiple research papers and essays throughout the term.

Develop a basic term paper structure and outline

The full answer to “What is a term paper?” is impossible without understanding this assignment’s basic structure. At the surface level, it consists of the same standard parts as any essay: introduction, body, and conclusion. However, you must also account for the extra pieces, like the abstract and appendices. Besides, the main body of a term paper can take many forms, depending on your class, topic, and assignment requirements. For instance, it may be as simple as a literature review with in-depth analysis if you only use secondary data. Or it may call for a methodology overview, primary data analysis and discussion.

In short assignments, a term paper introduction may include a literature review. However, in longer papers, an introduction should highlight the relevance and importance of the topic, while the literature review should cover the pertinent information from different angles and point out the existing flaws or inconsistencies. The ultimate decision about the term paper structure is up to you, but you can always consult your instructor before committing to a course of action.

Follow the term paper format

The professor should include the format requirements within the term paper prompt unless they are universal for the whole department or school. Ask your professor which style to follow if you’re unsure about the formatting rules. We suggest looking up the official guides for the relevant writing style, but just to give you a quick reminder, we’ll go over the basics of the MLA and APA styles.

MLA term paper format overview

The MLA term paper format includes these stipulations:

  • Double-spaced text in a legible 12 pt font (Times New Roman, Arial, etc.)
  • One-inch margins on all sides
  • Half-inch indents for the first lines of every paragraph
  • Page numbers in the upper right-hand corner
  • Paper title centered and using Title Case
  • Numbered section headings using Arabic numbers with periods
  • Up to five levels of headings are possible, formatted consistently throughout the paper
  • In-text citations in the author-page format are included in parentheses

No title page is required for MLA-style term papers unless otherwise specified. Instead, add your name, professor’s name, course name, and date in the upper left-hand corner of the first page.

APA term paper format overview

According to the APA recommendations, each paper must include four sections: Title Page, Abstract, Main Body, and References. The title page consists of the paper title in Title Case, your name and school, the professor’s name and course, as well as the assignment’s due date. All information should be centered in the middle of the page, and the paper’s title should be typed in boldface.

The abstract should begin with the section name (“Abstract”) typed in boldface and centered at the top of the page. Afterward, include a 250-word summary of the paper (without a first-line indent) and list keywords at the bottom. Indent and italicize the “Keywords:” before listing them.

Other basic APA formatting considerations include:

  • Double-spaced text in a legible 10 pt to 12 pt font (Times New Roman, Clibry, etc.)
  • One-inch margins on all sides
  • Half-inch indents for the first line of every paragraph
  • Page numbers in the upper right-hand corner
  • Author-date in-text citations may include page numbers for direct quotes

Note that the 7th edition of the APA Handbook was released in 2019, and some professors prefer the previous version of the formatting style. If you’re unsure which version to use, ask your instructor to specify the APA edition.

How to write a good term paper

There are no right or wrong ways to write a term paper, but there are more and less efficient approaches and tactics. Decades of combined academic writing experience helped SpeedyPaper writers develop recommendations that can make the process smoother for you.

Understand the prompt and develop a topic

Before you learn how to write a term paper like a pro, you need to be sure you understand the task. Misinterpreting the prompt is the biggest mistake you can make, as it comes early and can ruin weeks of research and writing efforts.

Start by highlighting or underlining the prompt keywords. Then, consider all possible angles and interpretations of the assignment. To be 100% sure you’re on the right track, rewrite the prompt in your own words, write your topic ideas (more on that in the next section), and run them by your instructor. Once you receive their approval, you can start researching references and compiling an outline.

Research and plan the term paper

Term papers typically require at least five relevant and credible references, though some professors may require 10+ sources. Remember that many sites you use daily, like Wikipedia, YouTube, Reddit, or Quora, are not considered objective or reliable sources for academic writing. The same applies to most blogs and websites that don’t have a solid reputation for international publications or expertise. You’ll need to seek out scientific journals, textbooks, etc. Our experts shared a few tricks for that:

  1. Use Google Scholar instead of Google Search. It returns journals, books, and other credible sources. Set the year filter to the oldest time of publication you wish to use to make the search even more efficient.
  2. Try and ResearchGate. Even if you don’t find the full-text versions of the papers, you can reach out to the authors and request access to their publications for your schoolwork.
  3. Check out pre-printed articles on But be careful about choosing the articles, as not all have gone through the peer-review process.
  4. Use industry-specific databases. For example, if you study nursing or medicine, PubMed is among the best resources to find the latest research.


As you read and analyze the sources, highlight relevant information, divide it into categories, and use those to create a rough outline of your term paper. You can use the template we discussed earlier to help organize the data you collect.

Write the first draft

Term paper is a lengthy and complex assignment, so you shouldn’t use advice on how to write a business letter or an essay to complete it. For example, some writing guides recommend starting with the abstract, but it’s much easier to complete it after the rest of the paper is ready. The same applies to the introduction, but the literature review should definitely be the first thing you write among the body sections, as it’ll form the foundation of the rest of your research and analysis.

The worst thing you can do to your term paper is try to write it in one sitting at the last possible moment. So, while it may seem impossible, try to plan short writing sessions throughout the term and stick to your schedule. And remember to give yourself enough time for the post-writing routine we’ll cover next.

Edit, proofread, and format the paper

To make your piece perfect, take a break after completing it. Next, look at the reasoning and argumentation, data, and conclusions to eliminate the weakest pieces and improve the strongest. Proofreading should come after you’re 100% done fiddling with the text and formatting—after that. Ideally, you want to hire a term paper writing service online to enhance your writing, but you can also swap papers with a classmate and help each other.

Create an exciting term paper topic

Professors can provide a specific or vague term paper prompt for you to work with. Either way, you’ll need to narrow down the issue and formulate a title for your paper. Here’s how you can do that:

  • Consider the issue from a personal perspective that gets you excited about the task.
  • Find connections with other assignments you’ve already completed to speed up the research.
  • Highlight connections to the current real-world issues to make the paper relevant.
  • Go through the recommended reading list for inspiration and reference data.

If you need to come up with a term paper topic from scratch, here are a few examples you can use as templates for your brainstorming sessions:

  1. Evaluate the effect of generative AI models on the education system in the US
  2. Consider the impact of social media recommendation algorithms on social and political conflict
  3. Analyze the outcome of the streaming service rivalry in the entertainment industry
  4. Assess the effect of digitization and automation on the job market
  5. Discuss the causes of the housing crisis in the US
  6. Contemplate the significance of the rising number of de-transition cases for the LGBTQ+ community
  7. Evaluate the impact of diversity hiring mismanagement on workplace productivity
  8. Consider the historical roots of current political preferences across different US states
  9. Analyze the ethics of various revenue streams in professional sports
  10. Discuss the implications of the shift toward renewable energy sources for the global economy

Considering the term paper’s effect on your class grade, remember to get the professor’s approval before you start researching. We recommend keeping a couple of backup options handy in case your instructor does not approve of your first choice. Once you secure a “go ahead”, you can finally implement our advice or get writing paper online help from SpeedyPaper experts.

Final thoughts

Term paper is the most challenging assignment, second only to capstone projects (or theses). We cannot hope to teach you everything you need to know about getting it done in such a short blog post, but our tips and tricks should make the task easier for you at every step, from choosing the topic to outlining and formatting the piece.

And if you’re out of time to put our advice to good use, you can buy term paper online from SpeedyPaper experts. Their research skills and writing talent guarantee you get your assignment quickly (in under 24 hours, if necessary) to submit it on time and avoid losing points off your grade.