The Student’s Guide to Writing a Term Paper on Shakespeare and His Works

Writing guide
Posted on January 31, 2019

A term paper is often the final paper a student needs to complete for a class. When it comes to English classes, the topic of Shakespeare is often on the list for students to pick from. Since writing about the prolific English writer and his works is such a common assignment, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide that can help both college and high school students alike to write a term paper with either Shakespeare or his works as the overarching topic of the term paper.

Since the topic of Shakespeare and his works is a popular topic for both high school and college students, we have put together this comprehensive guide for students. This Shakespeare term paper guide will not only cover some helpful topics for writing a term paper in general, but it will also give topic ideas that you can use to base your paper on.

What is a Term Paper?

A term paper is often the final paper in a class. This is true whether the term paper is due in a high school or college class. This sort of final paper is most often assigned in college classes, but high school classes will sometimes assign a term paper to Junior or Senior students.

A term paper is a mix of an essay and a research paper. Essays are often mostly opinion based while having the opinions backed up with facts and evidence from primary and secondary sources. A research paper usually doesn’t have any opinion in it. Research papers are based on facts and evidence. Students may add in a line or two of what they did to come to their research and their findings, but that will be about the only “personal” information that will be included in a research paper.

A term paper, being a combination of essays and research papers, will be mostly research-based, while having some personal opinion added in. For example, a student might claim something like, “Hamlet shouldn’t have accused his uncle of murder.” This statement, which is entirely subjective, would need to be backed up with evidence from the text. This evidence can either be put in direct quotes or it can be summarized from longer pieces of the text or by summarizing evidence given in a secondary source.

How to Pick a Topic Your Tutor Will Love: Ideas from Our Experts

The topic of Shakespeare is common in a variety of classes, usually English classes. Writing about Shakespeare or any of his works is a wise topic to pick for Shakespeare classes, English Literature classes, and general English classes (assuming you have studied Shakespeare at some point in the class).  It may also be a fitting subject if you have recently studied England around the 1600’s in your history class. However, this topic is not suitable if you are taking an American Literature or World Literature class.

Writing about either Shakespeare or his plays or sonnets will work well for an assignment like a term paper. This is because you don’t need to add in much of your own opinion. Therefore, using historical topics shouldn’t be a problem. If you want to be more creative, it might be better to try to interpret a play or a sonnet for your paper instead.

Before you pick a Shakespeare term paper topic, make sure to check your rubric. Sometimes, teachers and professors will give a list of topics students can choose from, a general topic to work with, or some other topic-specific criteria for your paper. If you have one of these restrictions, it is important to keep it in mind while picking your topic.

Topic Suggestions for Shakespeare Term Paper

We have listed some topic suggestions below. All of these topics can be used for any one of his plays. Beneath each topic, we have also listed an example of how you might use it in your own paper. Feel free to use any of these suggested topics in your term paper.

If you do not like any of these topics, then you can work with a friend to brainstorm some more topics. Think about what you have learned about in class. Have you had to write smaller essays on a certain topic? Was there a specific play or sonnet that you liked? Make sure to write about something you are interested. If you write about something you think is boring, then you are likely to be bored when you write the paper.

  1. Sexuality in Shakespeare’s PlaysMany of Shakespeare’s plays have romantic elements in them. Modern readers sometimes read Shakespeare’s characters as being bisexual or gay when they are often portrayed as straight. Interpret the sexuality of one or more of the characters in one of your favorite plays.
  2. The Muses of Shakespeare’s SonnetsShakespeare wrote over 100 sonnets. Some of them are said to be written for a “Dark Lady” while others are written about a rival poet, and others are romantic. Which are which? Who do you think inspired these sonnets?Explain your thoughts in your term paper.
  3. Shakespeare and Historical AccuracyMany of Shakespeare’s plays, like Henry V and Richard III, are based on real-life people. How accurate to history are these plays? Discuss the similarity and differences between history and the play.
  4. A Short Biography of William ShakespeareThis one is pretty self-explanatory. Simply write a short biography of Shakespeare. Include some of the highlights of his career and life. Some events you may include are his marriage to Anne Hathaway or his first play at the Globe Theatre.
  5. Original Versus Modern English in Shakespeare’s Works
    Shakespeare’s plays were written in the beginning stages of “Early Modern English.” However, they are often “translated” into modern English. Does the translation add or take away from the reading of the play? Explain.

How to Write a Term Paper on Shakespeare

Now that we’ve looked at some of the ways to pick a topic for your paper, let’s look at the steps you can take to actually compose your paper. There are a few things that will be determined based on your class’s rubric: the length of your term paper will likely be determined by your professor or teacher. If you are unsure what the required length is, make sure to ask or consult your assignment rubric.

Other things that are likely to be predetermined by your teacher or professor include the format or style guide you must use for your paper. A complete list of style guides and how to use them can be found with this link. Most English classes use MLA, but others may use APA or another style guide. Keep whatever style guide you need to use in mind as you write your paper.

Pre-Writing Tips for an Easy Start

Before you even begin writing your paper, you can do a few things to make writing your term paper easier. One of the first things you should do is get all of your research out of the way. This is sure to save you time when you are writing your paper. By doing all of your research before you even begin writing, you can save time because you won’t need to interrupt your writing to research more. Also, make sure that you are taking notes as you research. Write down any vital information you expect to use in your paper. Also, make sure to write down where you got the information from (write down the link or book and page number) so you can easily find the sources again if you need to consult them later to cite or source or take more notes.

Another great thing to do is to write an outline for your paper. An outline should include key points you want to add to your paper. The basic format for a term paper outline is below. For the purpose of this article, we’ve only added one body paragraph, but your actual research paper will have a few pages worth of body paragraphs. Simply repeat step A as many times as you need to in order to get in all of the body paragraphs you need for your paper.


  1. Thesis Statement
    1. Main Point of Body Paragraph
      1. Supporting Evidence
      2. Supporting Evidence
      3. Conclusion
  2. Conclusion
  3. References

Writing Tips

If you struggle with Shakespeare term paper writing, then you can use the guide below to help you with formatting your paper, from the introduction to the conclusion.


As the outline above shows, one of the first things you should do when writing a paper is to refine your thesis statement. Your thesis statement should be one sentence long and state the main point of your entire paper. This can sometimes be a tough task, so if you are having trouble with it, you may want to wait until you have written the rest of the paper (skipping the introduction) and then go back to the beginning. Some students find this easier.

Your thesis statement is always a part of the introduction, whether you are writing a term paper, an essay, or a research paper. The rest of your introduction should do as the name implies: introduces your essay. Write what your paper will be about, what sources you used, and more. An example of a good introduction is below.

In Shakespeare’s Othello, Iago’s motives for lying to Desdemona about Othello are unclear. This paper will discuss some of Iago’s possible motives, including jealousy and racism, and how Iago’s motives impacted his actions, and the course of the play.

Body Paragraphs

Like mentioned before, body paragraphs will take up the majority of your term paper. This is because term papers are usually several pages long and there are only one introduction and conclusion paragraph (each) per paper. Therefore, the body paragraphs are the most important parts of the paper.

In a way, each body paragraph is like a term paper in itself. They each need to begin with an introductory sentence. The following sentences (usually two to four sentences) will be the supporting evidence. The last line of the paragraph should be a small conclusion.


The conclusion of the paper should be an entire paragraph (three to five lines) that roughly sums up your entire paper. You will want to begin the conclusion much in the same way as you began the introduction: state what your paper was about. The next few sentences should sum up the main points of your paper. The last sentence should sum up it all. It’s as simple as that.

Reference Page

Make sure you have a separate page for all of your references. Before compiling the reference page, ask your teacher or professor which reference guide you should use. When you are done with writing your whole paper (or even while you are writing it), make sure to add in all of your internal sources as well. If you need help learning how to use a specific style guide, then you can use this link. It provides sources to find references for using each type of popular citation guide.

Editing Tips

Before you turn in your paper, you are going to want to edit it thoroughly. The better you edit your paper, the better your grade is likely to be. There are a few ways in which you can edit your paper:

  1. Have a friend look over your paper. Often times, when you are writing a paper, you get used to looking at the words on the page, so you might have difficulty when it comes to noticing when sentences aren’t quite formatted correctly. Having another pair of eyes look at your work can resolve this problem. Have a friend mark spots in your paper that need adjusting to help you to better your paper.
  2. Use a spelling/grammar checker. There is no excuse to not use a spelling/grammar paper. Depending on which one you use, you can find small typos like “researg” and grammar issues, like if you use the word “were” when you were supposed to use “where.” One of the best spelling and grammar checkers out there (which was even used to edit this article) is Grammarly. Use a free trial and give it a try.
  3. Use a plagiarism checker. Lastly, make sure you use a plagiarism checker before you turn in your paper. Sometimes, you may plagiarize something without even noticing it. Catching plagiarism before your teacher does can make the difference between a passing and a failing grade. Turnitin provides free trials of their service, so that might be a good place to start.

We hope that these tips help you to write an A+ Shakespeare term paper. Good luck!

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