Old Pueblo Academy

School Term Papers vs. University Term Papers

The leap from secondary schooling to the university level can often be an intimidating one for many students. You may have felt a certain level of confidence at the high school level, but for some reason, transitioning into the university lecture halls and out of traditional high school classrooms can cause that confidence to burst. It is important to note that there is really not a huge difference in high school term papers and university ones, unless of course, you were the typical 16-year-old who displayed no true interest or dedication to your studies. Sometimes even extremely studious high school students discover that the college level of research and writing requires much more than their high school efforts in order to receive top marks.

The aspects that remain the same are relatively form and citation expectations, as those are established by higher levels of English standards rather than school preferences. You will, however, encounter noticeable differences in the expectations of the level of your writing once you reach university. A few things you will quickly learn are:

What you thought was research was not true research.

Many high schoolers use the research to support their own claims. They do not make smooth connections between the research findings and their own arguments, and often, even in well-written high school level term papers, a student has merely used often random research to support an already established thesis. At the university level, this approach is considered lazy and unacceptable. University level courses will assume you already know how to utilize research in a way that formulates an argument, rather than just supporting it, and they will mark you according to your ability to make wise choices with citations that truly formulate your thoughts rather than making random guest appearances in your writing.

Your college professors will not be as forgiving as your loving high school teachers.

In secondary education, you may have had a closer relationship with your teacher that allowed you to get by with more in terms of your writing. Your teacher may not have read your papers word for word (despite what she may have told you) as the demands on secondary teachers’ time is considerably more than university professors. Your secondary teacher probably also did not have the benefit of graduate assistants or teaching assistants like many large universities have. These people surely will read every line of your papers and catch all of your mistakes. This is not a statement to incite fear, merely to point out that if you thought you could get by with mistakes in content structure and bibliography citation issues before, you must realize you will not be able to get by with these same mistakes at the university level. Your college professors are likely to go the entire semester never knowing you personally at all (unless you wisely act differently). They will not give you special treatment or understanding based on personal relationship.

Now is your time.

Unlike in high school, your time at university is for you to begin truly studying the work of others in a much more in-depth way than you ever did in high school. This should severely alter how you approach term papers - no longer as random assignments, but as critical opportunities to learn in the field you have declared you desire to be an expert. One of the largest differences between a high school term paper and a university level one is you. This is officially your time to take the research process seriously and in many cases, enjoy it for the specific knowledge you are gaining. It is also your time to make bold claims and offer unique perspectives through your papers that have never before been explored. The way you go about research should change, the way you think should change, and the type of arguments you bring forth in an essay should change. Now is your time to prove yourself and to contribute original and noteworthy claims, backing those claims up with carefully selected and pertinent research.


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