Writing a Winning Term Paper: Content

The first step in writing a winning Boccaccio-related paper is choosing an appropriate topic. The relationship between the world of the brigata and the tales they narrate, recurring themes and plot structures, individual characters or episodes, and the critical literature surrounding these subjects, are all promising avenues of scholarly investigation. The unique binary structure of the text (consisting of the frame and the novellas themselves) and the diverse society he depicts makes it possible to explore the complexities of Boccaccio's masterpiece from a variety of critical perspectives. It is essential to choose an essay topic that compliments your interests and background. Students with a strong interest in art history, for example, may want to explore how Boccaccio (an artist himself) depicted painters in the Decameron, such as Giotto. Be careful not to pick too broad a topic; a very focused topic, such as a rare theme present in only two or three novellas, will allow you to better explore it in depth, which will in turn result in a better paper.

Once you have chosen a topic, become very familiar with it: read and reread the appropriate portions of the text, check the endnotes for any additional information, and do some research to see whether any critics have written on similar topics. While you should be using most of your own ideas, reading articles by other writers may help you to focus your topic or understand something you don't know. See the Bibliographic and Research Tips on this site for more information on how to find appropriate materials. When you are comfortable with your material, develop your thesis. Look over any notes you may have taken in your research or in class and see whether they support some underlying trend. Select two or three arguments or examples that can be used in defense of your thesis, and explore them thoroughly.

Once you have arranged a basic outline of your thesis and defending arguments, take a step back and look at your own work critically. Are there any faults in your logic? Are your examples appropriate? Can any strong counterarguments be made in opposition to your theory? Find at least two or three alternate arguments against your thesis and reevaluate your position. The examination of counterarguments will help you understand any weaknesses that might be present in your thesis, which in turn will allow you to build an even stronger essay. Presenting a strong thesis with good supporting points should be the core of your paper.

Having mapped out the arguments to defend your conclusion, and having rebuffed potential criticisms of your position, you are now ready to write your term paper. Good luck!