BSocSc (Hons) in Government & International Studies

Termpaper Guidelines

Framing a Research Question

The Process of Research

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What is a Research Paper?

The word RESEARCH means "finding out" or "discovery", by use of systematic effort, information or answers to something you want to know. You RESEARCH by asking questions and by searching for answers to those questions which are satisfactory, methodological valid, and balanced. You cannot RESEARCH if you do not want to know anything, that is, you must have something you would like to know more about before you can do RESEARCH. You begin with a QUESTION or QUESTIONS. If you have none, you will find no answers or will not know when you have found one. Since you will be assigned to write a RESEARCH paper, a paper written without a question in mind will NOT be a RESEARCH paper.


The Honours Project is a RESEARCH project. It involves asking a main question, then many more follow up questions. These questions MUST be pursued honestly. That is, if you find an answer you don't like, you nevertheless cannot reject it. You must examine the EVIDENCE assessed in arriving at that answer, and all other answers to your question. You must report contradictory EVIDENCE, and explain how you weight one answer as better based on better EVIDENCE than another.


You will discover that framing your question is the first thing you, as a good RESEARCHER, should do. Sure, read about countries, people or events which interest you, and all those writers wanted to know more about that which they wrote about, but then consider what more you would like to find out about that event, person, period or country, etc. If you aren't interested in what you write, and you don't have any idea about what question(s) you are asking, then don't be surprised if your lecturer / reader gets bored when reading your paper or tells you that what you wrote is not a RESEARCH paper. Most lecturers grade according to whether you did the assignments and whether it was interesting and well done. So frame a question which genuinely interests you, and which may be new.


Some guidelines

  • What problem, person, relationship, event, circumstance, mystery, etc. do you plan to investigate?


  • What specific aspects are you examining, and why? Has that particular aspect and your question about it been asked before, according to your research? If yes, are you satisfied with the answer(s)? If yes and you are satisfied, pick a new area for research; if no, what left you unsatisfied? Was the response or the research incomplete in some way? How? This is your chance to do a better job.


  • What type of approach(es) will you use to conduct your inquiry? Is (are) t (they) appropriate to your subject? Would another method give a new focus?


  • What type of sources do you need? What are the ideal sources which could answer your question(s)? What is available to you? Can you imagine another way of using the available sources to provide data for your question if their relation is not obvious? Should you rephrase and refocus your question?


  • Do your sources seem balanced - that is, if you have data for one side of a story, do you also have comparable data from another view? If not, rephrase your question and your title to indicate it is a one sided study.


  • Can your topic question be researched and written up adequately in the space and time allotted?
Writing a termpaper

The structure

  • Cover: Name and title
  • Page 2: List of contents
  • Page 3-12: Text (double space)
    1. Introduction
    2. (Main part)
      1. ....
      2. ....
      3. ....
        1. ....
        2. and so on
      4. ....
    3. Conclusion


  • Page 13: Footnotes
  • Page 14: Key references

Table of Content - Example for a list of contents showing the systematic structure of a term paper

Topic: The Comeback of Regionalism in China in the 1980s


  1. Introduction
  2. Regionalism in China
    1. Terms and Definitions
      1. What is Regionalism?
      2. What is Centralism?
    2. Historical Roots of Regionalism in China
      1. The Relation between Centre and Region 1911-1949
      2. The Relation between Centre and Region 1949-1978
    3. The Development of Regionalism since 1978
      1. Planned Decentralisation by the central government
      2. Financial and Economic Reforms
      3. Administrative Reforms
    4. The increasing power of the regions
      1. Local interests
      2. Resistance against the centre
      3. ...
  3. Conclusion


  1. Footnotes
  2. References

The Introduction (I)

The introduction should consist of three aspects:


  1. A description of the topic, the importance of the topic and which aspects of the topic you are going to write about.
  2. A description of the structure of the term paper: you should explain how you have structured your term paper, which aspects you are going to deal first, second and so on.
  3. You should give a short overview of the main sources which are important for the topic and which sources you have finally used. Give only the titles with a footnote from which the whole title can be identified.


With a term paper of ten pages, the introduction should be no more than one page.

The main part of the term paper (II)

The main part of the term paper has to be constructed systematically.
Look at several books to see how the authors have structered the content of their books.


There are different systems for arranging the content of a paper:

  1. Numbers
  2. Letters
  3. Numbers and letters


Look at several books with different systems and decide on the system you would like to apply. You must only apply one system.

Usually, the main part starts with the definitions of the central concepts and a short review of the topic.


Refer to the table of content to see an example of a list of contents showing the systematic structure of a term paper.

Conclusion (III)

In the conclusion you should try to sum up the main results of the term paper. You should try to put down the results in three or four short statements or thesis. At the end, you should give your own point of view. Try to explain why some authors are wrong or right, and what do you think about the topic, but you have to base your own opinion on reasonabele arguments.


The conclusion should be no longer than 1 page.

Citations (footnotes / endnotes)

Citations are very important. A term paper without citations will not be accepted. They are necessary in order to show which sources you have used and allow the reader to look up the references for further reading.


There are three systems for writing citations:

  1. at the bottom of each page (called footnotes)
  2. at the end of the term paper (called endnotes)
  3. in between the text


To start with we would recommmend to use the system 1 or 2.
Do not mix two systems. Apply only one.


Examples of citations:


  1. Citations from a monograph1Immanuel C.Y. Hsü: The Rise of Modern China4, Oxford University Press, New York and Oxford 1990, p. 131.
    (If you quote from the book for the second time, you only write:)
    2Compare Hsü, p. 165.
    (If the next footnote also refers to Hsü, you only write:)
    3Ibid., page 183. (that means: same place and comes from Latin)
    (If the next footnote is also related to Hsü, you again write:)
    4Ibid., pp. 184-185.
    (If footnote no 5 is from a new book then you have to write the whole new title.)
  2. Citations from an article5Lin Min: "The Search for Modernity: Chinese Intellectual Course, 1978-1988 - The Case of Li Zehou." In: The China Quarterly, no. 132, Dec. 1992, pp. 969-998, p. 978.
    6Compare Lin Min, p. 981.
    7Ibid., pp. 984-986.
  3. Citations from an article in a book: (Author, title, book title, editor, series title, place, date, number of pages, page)
    8David A. Kelly: "The Emergence of Humanism: Wang Roushui and the Critique of Socialist Alienation", in: China's Intellectuals and the State: In Search of a New Relationship, ed. by Merle Goldman with Timothy Cheek and Carol Lee Hamrin, Harvard Contemporary China Series: 3, Cambridge, Mass. 1987, pp. 1859-182, p. 163.
    9Kelly, in: Goldman, pp. 165-167.
  4. Citations from Chinese references: (The system of citation is the same. Please write the title in pinyin and add the translation of the title.)
    10Ai Siqi: Xin zhexue lunji (Essays on the New Philosophy), Shanghai 1938, pp. 43-46.
  5. Citations from Internet Resources (Please read the article here)
  6. Footnotes have an additional function: In the footnotes you can explain certain further aspects of the topic which are not so important that they should be placed in the main text. You can add further references to articles or books regarding the aspects and so on.
    Example:11Kelly, in Goldman, pp. 165-167. For a further discussion of this aspect compare the book by the same author: David Kelly: Chinese Marxism in the Post-Mao Era, Stanford 1990, pp. 23-28 and 34-36. Also Chester Tan: Chinese Political Thought in the 20th Century. Newton Abbot 1972, pp. 86,90.


At the end of the term paper you write all articles and books in alphabetical order.


You have to distinguish between:


  • monographs
  • articles
  • books edited by somebody
  • internet resources


The usual order for monographs is:


  • Author, title, place, date of publication.
    Example: Hsü, Immanuel C.Y.: The Rise of Modern China4, Oxford University Press, New York and Oxford 1990. (4means 4th edition)


The usual order for articles is:


  • Author, title of the article, name of the magazine or newspaper, volume, number, year, month, pages.
    Example: Lin Min: "The Search for Modernity: Chinese Intellectual Course, 1978-1988 - The Case of Li Zehou." In: The China Quarterly, no. 132, Dec. 1992, pp. 969-998.


The usual order for books which somebody has edited:


  • Title of the book, editor(s), place, date of publication.
    ExampleChina's Intellectuals and the State: In Search of a New Relationship, ed. by Merle Goldman with Timothy Cheek and Carol Lee Hamrin, Harvard Contemporary China Series: 3, Cambridge, Mass. 1987.


The references should only include the titles you have actually used in your term paper.

BIBLIOGRAPHY - How to find refences books and articles

Besides the term paper you compile a bibliography for the topic of the term paper. This bibliography should consist of all relevant books and articles, in English as well as in Chinese, but not more than 30 titles.


Please add the bibliography to the term paper.


  • Step 1: Look up the books and articles which are related to your topic (on the back page of the lecture outline) for further titles.
  • Step 2: Use the computer in the library, enter several keywords.
  • Step 3: Look for bibliographies in the library, for example the Bibliography of the Journal of Asian Studies. Try to find out under which category the titles you need could be found.
    Example: Your topic is: The ideological development in the PRC 1949-1976
    Look under the categories: Chinese contemporary philosophy, ideology, contemporary history and so on.
  • Step 4: Look up the following periodicals for articles about your topic: 
    • The China Quarterly
    • The Journal of Asian Studies
    • Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs
    • Modern China
    • Modern Asian Studies
    • China Report
    • Asian Survey
    • Issues and Studies
    • Problems of Communism
    • China Information
    • China News Analysis

    Many of the journals have a monthly or yearly index, which makes it easier to find relevant articles. Try to find other journals.

    Look up Chinese periodicals:

    • Zhexue yanjiu
    • Shehui kexue zhanxian
    • Zhongguo zhexue and others