Answering this question is a good place to start thinking about term papers because if you know why papers are such a common assignment, then perhaps you can approach the task with added enthusiasm and dedication. Two goals usually motivate this assignment. One goal relates to the specific subject of the course; the other goal is based on your professional development. The first course-specific goal is to increase your expertise in some particular substantive area. The amount that you learn from this or almost any other course will be expanded significantly by doing research and by writing a paper. The effort will allow you to delve into the intricacies of a specific topic far beyond what is possible in the no doubt broad lectures that your instructor must deliver in class. Your research will go beyond the necessarily general commentary found in this text.
Summary: APA (American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. This resource, revised according to the 6th edition, second printing of the APA manual, offers examples for the general format of APA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the reference page. For more information, please consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, (6th ed., 2nd printing).
2. A rule of thumb is that if you did not know the information before you started the paper, then you should use a citation to show where you found the information. Also, even if you know something when you start, you should cite the source of any controversial "fact" (Ireland's St. Brenden and the Vikings came to the New World before Columbus).
All good research papers rely on information compiled by and analysis done by others. If you write a research paper without consulting other works, then you have written an essay, not a report. If you do rely in part on the work of other people and you do not cite them, you have failed in your responsibilities. A research paper cite the work of others.
2. There are many people who can help you write a first-rate paper. One person is your instructor. Discuss your topic and your ideas with your professor. He or she may be able to help you refine your topic, avoid pitfalls, identify resources, or plan the paper's organization. Submit drafts to your professor far enough ahead of the deadline to give the instructor time to suggest revisions. It may prove helpful also to ask a classmate, a family member, or someone else to read your paper. Most people are not good judges of their own writing. We tend to read what we meant to say, not what we actually wrote. A fresh reader will be able to point out technical errors and lapses in your argument and organization. Writing centers are another source of help at many colleges and universities. You may have already paid for such assistance with your tuition dollars; you might as well use it.
In the mouse behavior paper, for example, you would begin the Introduction at the level of mating behavior in general, then quickly focus to mouse mating behaviors and then hormonal regulation of behavior.
A more analytic approach would be organized around a set of factors, or variables, that are important to the subject of the paper. Theoretical approaches can also be used to organize a paper. See Allison's (1971) for an illustration of such an analytic approach.
Approach: There are several ways to approach your paper. A common organizational approach is a chronological one. The advantage of this approach is that it uses the passage of time as its organizing mechanism. The disadvantage of a chronological approach is that it can easily become a "laundry list" of events, both important and unimportant. Students often list everything they find, leaving it to the reader to determine which factors are most important. Chronologies are also no substitute for analysis. There is nothing wrong with a chronological approach if it is done well; just be sure to put more emphasis throughout on things happened than on happened.
Besides organization, the other hallmark of a good paper is clarity in writing. Remember that if a paper fails to communicate well, then its research-no matter how well done--will have little impact. There is an old piece of advice that says, "write like you speak." This is terrible advice, at least for formal papers. Good written communication is somewhat different from good spoken communication. When you speak to someone, especially face to face, you can convey meaning through voice inflection, gestures, and other methods in addition to your words. These methods are not available in written communications. Therefore, choice of words, punctuation, and other considerations are particularly vital when you write. Good writing can be divided into three parts: effort, style considerations, and technical matters.
Also with regard to your main body, do not assume knowledge on the part of the reader. Include all important information, explain its significance, and detail your logic. Write your paper as though its reader will be a reasonably intelligent and informed person but not an expert on your topic. Your instructor wants to know what you know and will not "read into" the paper information that is not there.
If you are writing an advanced, theoretical paper, your introduction might well also include a review of the existing scholarship on the subject, a section in which you identify how you collected your data and other information, and a discussion of the methodology you will use. Wolfinger (1993) is a guide for such advanced papers.
Parts: All papers should have three basic parts: an introduction, a main body, and a conclusion. The is the key to letting your reader know where you are headed and what you will accomplish. Remember always that while the organization of your paper may be clear to you, it is not clear to your reader. Therefore, the introduction is something like a road map that acquaints the reader with the journey ahead. This will make it easier for the reader to understand what follows and will improve the reader's evaluation of your work. Tell the reader in concise terms (1) what the subject of the paper is, (2) what it is that you hope to find out, and (3) how you will go about it.