Take the Terror Out of Your Term Paper

So you’ve been given the horrifying assignment of writing about Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. If you’re like most people, simply the idea of writing is far more frightening than phantoms floating in the night. However, there are steps you can take to make the process less spine chilling.

  • Get to know your professor. Professors are people, not demons.  They want your success as much as you do. The trick is to get to know what they want. Meet with your professor during office hours to get guidance on parameters and ideas. The sooner you start this process, the better.
  • Get the big picture. Once you know what your parameters are, find out generalities on your topic. In this case, you might want to do research on gothic fiction. Where does Jackson’s book fit it? Can you compare it to other works of gothic fiction? How does it compare to other 20th-century literature? Are there any themes or patterns that emerge from your research?
  • Make an outline. Once you have some basic ideas, outline them. This will help you determine areas that need more research.
  • Keep track of your sources. As you gather your research, fill out your outline with notes. Be sure to note your information sources in your outline so you know what and where to cite for your reference list.
  • Integrate lecture notes. Are there any ideas or themes from your class lecture slides you can incorporate into your paper? If not, that’s fine. But if you do, weave them into your paper in the appropriate places; your professor will feel like she got through to someone.
  • Tie it all together. Does your introduction provide a good “roadmap” for where the paper is going? Do your paragraphs have good transitions? Does your conclusion sum up your main points succinctly and cogently?

At the end of the day, you can tame the spirits and specters of worry about paper writing. If you start early and put in effort, you’ll likely do great!

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