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Top 9 Mistakes you can make while writing a Research Paper

Updated on April 25, 2020
Ivana Divac profile image

Ivana is a graduated philologist from the University of Belgrade.

Everyone says that becoming an academic citizen is a great honor. People cannot wait to finally become one. They've heard that's where they'll have the most fun and freedom in their lives. In reality, things are much complicated than they look: the position comes with many responsibilities. There are classes to attend, rules to respect, and deadlines to meet.

Writing a research paper on a chosen or given topic is one of the things that comes with the territory. Students are often in obligation to conduct immense research about a topic, take a stand on that topic, and provide evidence for their claims. There are countless things that could go wrong!

If you're one of the few serious students focused on results, awareness of the most common mistakes you can make while writing your research paper can help you to successfully avoid them. In such spirit, and mostly from personal experience, I have provided a list of nine frequent mistakes people make during their academic education.

1. Choosing the Wrong Topic.

A very common mistake, and it's often considered to be the most frequent one. Facing a lot of pressure, students tend to choose the most popular topic, with an abundance of information that's easily accessible. They do it in order to please a professor or to write a paper without spending too much time doing it. Often happens that they have no interest in it, so they find themselves struggling soon enough. Choosing a topic just for the sake of writing about it easy is only a safe route to mess everything up.

If you want to prosper, always choose a topic that aligns with your personal interests. It will be easier to both research about it and write it as well as you can. Being interested in a topic is the only way to be sure you'll do well.

2. Insufficient research before choosing a Thesis Statement.

The thesis statement represents the foundation of a successful paper. After choosing the right topic, selecting a strong thesis statement is the next most important thing to do. Firstly, it's necessary to conduct detailed and meticulous research about the topic. If it's not done properly, a person risks choosing a weak statement, or a completely wrong one. As a result, their whole paper will be weakened and, more importantly, it will lose its point.

Again, the most important thing is to feel connected to the topic; that way research will become easier, and the thesis statement will be as strong as it can be. Strong thesis statement is literally half of the job!

3. Making inappropriate connection between the Thesis Statement and Supporting Statements.

A very common mistake, and just as dangerous. Everyone does that at least once during the studies.

The best research papers contain a strong thesis statement and well-defined, detailed supporting statements. Besides, it's necessary to make good connections between the two; otherwise, adding random supporting statements is useless. They exist to support the main statement, and not just to help you reach the requested word count. Everything written in research paper should make sense and be well-connected with other parts of a whole.

4. Failure to properly cite and reference Sources.

This mistake is probably, by definition, one of the most frequent ones.

It's crucial to give proper credit for all the information used within a paper. Plagiarism isn't tolerated anywhere, let alone at University. There are different types of citing, and no matter which style you use, there are always manuals, guidelines, and tutorials for citing sources. Instructions are usually confusing and seem complicated, but it's crucial to follow them.

Make sure to pay attention to every detail!

“If one has an aspiration to become a well-cited researcher, s/he must

constantly strive to give the best efforts in a long-term period.”

- Eraldo Banovac

5. Weak structure of the Paper.

The longer the research paper is, the more challenging it becomes to properly write it.

The majority of people become too engaged in providing unnecessary information in order to reach the requested word count. That's why the paper begins losing its sense. Sometimes the whole paper has nothing to do with the chosen subject, which is a sure way to fail the assignment. Missing the whole point of an assignment is a bad sign.

A good research paper is original, specific, expresses a strong thesis statement and refers to the chosen topic. Other than that, a good research paper is direct and it's composed of an introduction, methods, results, and discussion. Make sure to pay attention to that first, rather than thinking about word count. When everything's done properly, the word count of the paper will be reached automatically.

6. Failure to get enough information.

By definition, this happens to students who rush. Make sure that you start your research on time; collect as much information as possible so that you can meet length requirements without struggling.

The best advice you could receive is the following: do not wait until the last possible moment to start working on a project, no matter how tempting that might be.

"No research is ever quite complete. It is the glory of a good bit of work that it opens the way for something still better, and this repeatedly leads to its own eclipse."

- Mervin Gordon

7. Plagiarism.

The one thing you absolutely must avoid is copying content from sources word for word, or paraphrasing it without proper references. Plagiarism is forbidden, and in some cases even punishable by law. Be careful while writing, and always check your paper before you submit it.

Make sure you've properly cited everything, and added all the references you consulted. No amount of sources is too much!

8. Failure to follow all instructions.

A very important thing to do is to review all guidelines very carefully. If you don’t read guidelines with attention, you’ll also miss pointers you should stick to in writing. There are strict rules you need to follow, and forgetting about one or more of them is forbidden.

That's one of the reasons you should never wait too long before you start a project.

9. Poor Grammar and use of Language.

In academic writing, grammar and proper language use are obligatory. There is not a professor out there who would let these kind of mistakes slip. Other than that, it doesn't look nice and damages a student's reputation.

Make sure you've had enough time to check and correct all mistakes before submitting the paper!

"It's perfectly obvious that there is some genetic factor that distinguishes humans from other animals and that it is language-specific. The theory of that genetic component, whatever it turns out to be, is what is called universal grammar."

- Noam Chomsky

Keep the listed mistakes in mind, do your best to avoid them, and you'll carry out. Good luck!
Keep the listed mistakes in mind, do your best to avoid them, and you'll carry out. Good luck!

© 2020 Ivana Divac


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