Essays and Term Paper
Essays and term papers are two of the most common, college-level writing assignments. Though different in length and depth, college essays and term paper assignments are very similar in their objectives: both are intended to be innovative texts in which the student approaches a specific topic in an individualized way that reveals his or her knowledge of that topic. The difference is that term papers will often require the writer to include significant research from outside sources, and essays are typically more focused on the ideas and opinions of the individual writer. Regardless, essays and term papers share enough common features that many of the skills used to write one can be applied to write the other. Some of these skills will be discussed here.
Both essays and term paper assignments will require the writer to develop a thesis. A thesis is a text's main point. A good argument often results in a good text, so investing some time in the development of a solid hypothesis is well worth the effort. Theses for both essays and reports should be precise, direct, and compelling. A thesis should not assert a fact, such as "The 2008 presidential election was historic." Every presidential election is historic. Rather, the document should present an idea, such as "The 2008 presidential election was historic because...[compelling idea goes here]." The thesis idea should be one that is complex enough to be explored in the space of a multi-page text, but precise enough that the idea can be thoroughly examined in those pages.
Both essays and term paper assignments will require the writer to make insightful points that directly support the thesis. This means that each paragraph should present evidence or ideas that develop or defend the thesis idea. Ideas that seem unrelated or merely tangential should be either eliminated or explained in such a way that the reader is aware of how they relate to the thesis.
Essays and term papers must be written using an authoritative voice. An authoritative voice persuades the reader of the text that the writer's ideas are worth considering. A writer can establish an authoritative voice by being knowledgeable about the different angles of or approaches to his or her subject and displaying that knowledge in the text.
Essays and term papers must be polished. This means that the student must edit and proofread the text to ensure that the structure is sound, the grammar is correct, and the style is smooth.
Finally, essays and term papers must be innovative. The student cannot merely recount what he or she has heard in class lectures or read in course texts; rather, the student must demonstrate that he or she has used this knowledge to develop his or her own ideas and insights.
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