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How to write a term paper? - Part II

2. Find relevant sources.

The biggest and hardest chore for the paper is reading and understanding the sources.

The sensible way to comprehend your topic is first to read a source that tells you all about the subject in the briefest manner possible, a capsule wrap-up. That's why almanacs, encyclopedias are so useful as starting points. IN them you will get the overall view that puts the topic in a nutshell. The rest of your readings will flesh out the details.

The detail work will consume most of your energy. There are ways to shortcut through the dozens of leads you might have uncovered in books, magazines, or encyclopedias. To be sure, you're going to have to buckle to the onerous task of following up all your leads. You can hardly turn out a research paper without doig the research. But you can make your reading of more value and save time by first skimming the source and catching the salient facts. Then go back for a thorough study of those key pints. If you're confronted by entire books, go over the table of contents or the index to see if what you want might not included in a few pages. Usually, tables of contents and indexes point up this or that focus of the book. If you were doing a term paper on Napoleon at Marengo, for example, the table of contents or the index of any of the hundreds of books on this emperor would single out that battle. You wouldn't have to read entire books to locate what you would need.

Magazine articles don't have tables of contents or indexes, but they do have telling titles and sub-headlines to indicate the various aspects covered. Even if they don't have revealing headlines, you can use that old device of looking for the key sentence in the beginnings of paragraphs. In other words, that first contention with examples or quotations to support that key sentence. So check those first sentences. Not all magazine article writers might use this style, but enough of them do so that you can be assured of a shortcut to periodicals.

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