A term paper is an academic paper that is completed at the end of a semester or school year, also referred to as a school term. It often involves research, but not always. Generally, a term paper is intended to showcase how much the student has learned throughout the school term, and will usually focus on one specific subject of study that was covered during the year.
This type of paper may also be referred to as a research paper. It is generally at least a few pages in length, depending on the subject matter as well as the grade level of the student who is completing the paper. Term papers usually must be typed, and are often double-spaced as well. Each teacher may require different things on the term paper, however. Sometimes a teacher will want students to use a specific style guide when writing the paper, such as the Modern Language Association (MLA) or American Psychological Association (APA) style guide.
To write a term paper, a student will usually need to be presenting an argument in a thesis statement format. Research may then be shown to support the thesis. A term paper does not necessarily need to argue a point, however; some papers are purely informational, and may be focused on a significant event in history, or an important figure in science, politics, or the arts, for example. Sometimes teachers will assign subjects for term papers, and sometimes they will be left to the student's discretion, within certain parameters.
In some cases, a term paper may be a type of personal reflection completed by the student. This is especially common in earlier grades in school. A student might be assigned to write a paper detailing what he or she learned in his or her favorite subject or class of the year, for instance. This allows students to reflect on the school year and review their subjects while developing their writing skills.
It is always a requirement for a term paper to be the student's own work and writing. Unfortunately, many students plagiarize term papers by taking information off the Internet, or even by purchasing a complete paper online. If the student is caught, he or she will generally receive no credit for the paper, and may face additional punishment. In college, students caught plagiarizing could potentially be kicked out of the class. It is never a good idea to use term papers that can be purchased or found for free online, or to hand in anything that isn't one's own work.