Term Papers Offer Unforeseen Benefits
by Mark Iraheta on Friday, March 7th, 2014
On February 19th, U.S. History students turned in their term papers with relief. Students began the process of brainstorming and researching immediately after the second semester commenced. The process proved arduous and required focus in order to meet all of the various deadlines. However, while the majority of students simply abhor the pressure of such a lengthy paper, I found that, unlike other history essays that are assigned throughout the course of the year, the history term paper is distinctly more enjoyable; the term paper allows students to freely explore areas of interest, making the writing and researching process less strenuous and more engaging.
The process of beginning the research paper is actually quite simple and well-structured. Your teacher assigns you a time frame, in which you are allowed to roam free and choose any topic of interest in relation to U.S. History. Some students find this initial process very stressful. Others feel like there are too many options, that their topic might lack depth, or that their area of focus has a dearth of researchable information. Adding to the anxiety of finding a good topic, your teacher expects a narrowed thesis within a few days of beginning the term paper process. Although this process can prove daunting at first, the wide range of potential topics is more liberating than having a topic assigned, the typical process in most history classes. Furthermore, the evident benefit of choosing one’s topic is that in doing so, a student can pursue the topic individually, developing one’s independent thinking and analytical skills.
After an individual has chosen his topic, the research process begins. This process can be a tad frustrating but interesting. The typical research process begins in Cox, where the librarians demonstrate how to research keywords and topics in order to find books and primary sources on the given topic. Because students get the opportunity to choose their sources, the research process is made much more authentic than for a typical historical essay, where one is limited to the readings and evidence used in class. The research process itself is also great because it shows the multilayered process that is history research, as well as the endless points of view and historical analyses available in all sorts of books and primary sources. Having so many sources out there, or in some cases too few, can really be stressful on the student; however, just like in a typical history class, a student needs to work with the information found and craft a powerful argument through his or her chosen evidence. The research process becomes quite ambiguous as the paper approaches its end, and one most likely will have to return to the library for more evidence on new ideas or topics that may arise. Additional reading often results in the discovery of new information and opens up the topic in new and interesting ways. Therefore, the data gathering process is hardly ever completely done by the time one begins writing. However, this process, too, is more beneficial than the usual history assignment, as it allows one to really hone his skills of research and sorting through various sources.
Incontestably, the most stressful part of the term paper process is the actual writing. Depending on how in depth one has researched the topic and met deadlines, this process can veer different ways. Some students will begin writing the research paper the long weekend before it is due; this tactic can be quite hectic. Last minute questions, lingering research, and a daunting word limit all play a part in the stressful writing process. However, this process is a cumulative, so every piece of research found and every deadline met makes the final project that much more powerful. To some, this idea of last-minute work can be troubling. However, if one has kept up with the long and strenuous research process, the writing portion of the whole term paper project becomes much easier and, to some extent, enjoyable. Ultimately, choosing a topic of genuine interest, delving into the research process with an open mind, and keeping a steady pace of work can lead to a real appreciation for the history term paper.
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