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A 'term paper' is a research paper written by students over an academic term, accounting for a large part of a grade. Term papers are generally intended to describe an event, a concept, or argue a point. A term paper is a written original work discussing a topic in detail, usually several typed pages in length and is often due at the end of a semester. There is much overlap between the terms "research paper" and "term paper". The phrase "term paper" was originally used to describe a paper (usually a research based paper) that was due at the end of the "term" - either a semester or quarter, depending on which unit of measure a school used. However, the term has fallen out of favor. Common usage has "term paper" and "research paper" as interchangeable, but this is not completely accurate. Not all term papers involve academic research, and not all research papers are term papers.
Term papers date back to the beginning of the 19th century when print could be reproduced cheaply and written texts of all types (reports, memoranda, specifications, and scholarly articles) could be easily produced and disseminated. During the years from 1870 to 1900, Moulton and Holmes (2003) write that "American education was transformed as writing became a method of discourse and research the hallmark of learning." Russell (1991) writes that in the 1910s, "the research paper began to harden into its familiar form" adding that plagiarism and the sale of research papers both became a problem during this time.
In the present day an entire industry has sprung up to provide plagiarized, pre-written, or custom written term papers to students of varying levels of education. There are many websites that sell term papers of all levels of quality and writing proficiency, but are often claimed by academic institutions as seriously undermining the academic integrity of the student. Use of such papers is frowned upon by educators and administrators, and submission of these works is considered plagiarism, and grounds for disciplinary action on the basis of academic dishonesty. These papers are in some rare cases used as a "model" for a student to use as a starting point in their research, but this is also considered ethically questionable and is usually a pretext for plagiarism.[original research?]
- Moulton, Margaret R. and Holmes, Vicki L (2003) "The Research Paper: A Historical Perspective," Teaching English in the Two Year College 30(4) p.366
- Russell, David R. Writing in the Academic Disciplines, 1870-1990: A Curricular History. Southern Illinois University, 1991. p.87-8
- On writing term papers
- Kuhlthau's Model of the Stages of the Information Process, reproduced from Seeking Meaning: A Process Approach to Library and Information Services by Carol Kuhlthau