My guidelines are only (1) length (4-5 pages single-spaced; (2) sources (at least 2 other than the textbook, and they can be reputable web sites as well as books and journal articles); (3) style (the more coherent and tied together the narrative is, the better the grade, so topics should not to be so overly broad that coherence is difficult to achieve); (4) your own opinions are encouraged, and particularly important when there is controversy between two or more viewpoints. There are no guidelines for topic other than that, and so much relates to motivation and behavior, so please just say what interests you and I’ll take it from there.
For references, I am most familiar with APA style, but if there is another format that you’re comfortable with (e.g., MLA) that’s OK too. However, no matter which style you use, the references at the end should either be in alphabetical order by last name of first author or listed by number in order of first appearance. Even more important, the citations in the text need to be complete and match the references listed at the end. For example, if in the text you are taking some material from the article by Kraut (1982) on facial feedback and emotion, it is notenough to list the Kraut article at the end: you also must cite it in parentheses or brackets at the place in the text where you are using that material. That way the reader knows as exactly as possible the sources of your stated ideas, and can check them on his or her own. Related to that: if you cite one article in the text but found that article within another article that you actually read, it is important that you say so in the references at the end, again so the reader interested in pursuing the topic further can find what you found. There are many ways to do that: one way would be to say “Kraut (1982) … Cited in Ekman (1986) …”I am not expecting the paper to be a research article presenting original findings, though I will accept it with pleasure if it is! So you don’t need the APA trappings of Abstract, Introduction, Methods, etc., though sub-sections usually make it go smoother.In addition to guidelines for what is legal for a termpaper, there are also some guidelines for effective writing:Do not choose a topic that’s overly large (e.g., motivation for success in education is probably too big, but motivation for success in high school algebra is not).Try to avoid long run-on paragraphs. Generally a paragraph that’s longer than a page single-spaced or two pages double-spaced is likely to be too long. Break up the paragraph when the ideas become different, even if related (that’s something that’s a matter of feel.)Some usage issues:Differentiate between “affect” and “effect.” Illness “has an effect” on motivation but “affects” motivation. If “affect” is used as a noun it means the expressive part of emotion.Differentiate between “principal” and “principle.” The adjective, meaning main or most significant, is “principal.” “Principle” is a noun and means a rule that governs conduct or behavior. If “principal” is used as a noun it means the chief officer of a grade school or high school.Don’t avoid apostrophes when you’re using possessives. The ball that belongs to Mary is “Mary’s ball,” and the class that Dr. Ickes teaches is “Dr. Ickes’ class.” One exception (I don’t know why this is) is that the possessive of “it” is not “it’s” but “its.” (“it’s” means “it is.”)