A physics term paper discusses one of three root topics: a scientist, a concept, or laboratory results. As in any term paper, the student must choose a topic very carefully and must exercise utmost care in the details of research and format; particularly if the student discusses laboratory results, he or she must proceed with heightened sensitivity to research details.
Depending on the level of the college course, students can specialize their topics to a greater or lesser degree; the student should consult the instructor of the course to find out if the instructor expects a broad survey of a certain area or a specialized report on one aspect of a topic. Contrary to intuition, broad surveys suit short physics term papers, whereas highly specialized topics better suit longer physics term papers. This happens because in short term papers, the instructor will not expect students to cover every detail of their topics, but in longer term papers, students have the space to thoroughly discuss their topics in all their depth. Also contrary to intuition, the student will probably find the longer paper easier to write, because he or she will be able to include a great deal more of the research information; he or she will not have to write as selectively as in a shorter paper.
The student may choose any topic that relates to the coursework; in the lower levels of physics courses, this topic will probably be a scientist or a concept. The student should not be afraid to choose to study an unfamiliar subject. The goal of a physics term paper is the writer’s education and academic growth; therefore, students often write their best papers on subjects about which they knew very little before beginning the research. The student who cannot think of a subject suitable for study should begin reading in the course’s textbooks and in science journals. He or she will soon discover an interesting topic to research further.