The research paper is the cornerstone of academic writing, and it’s also a type of writing that students get wrong as often as they get it right. The research paper seems like it should be easy enough: visit the library website, download some articles, and summarize them. Bam! Done. But it’s not that easy.
To better understand where students go wrong in writing research papers, let’s take a look at five of the biggest mistakes students typically make when writing their research papers.
- Summarizing Rather than Analyzing. The biggest problem with student research papers is the tendency to summarize rather than analyze. When you gather research for your paper, the articles and books are meant to provide support for an original thesis that you develop for your assignment. Professors often complain that many student papers are little more than a series of summaries, in sequence, of a variety of articles that are vaguely connected to one another. In a research paper, you need to develop your own ideas and bring in analysis, expert views, and evidence from your research to support that original idea.
- Not Having a Clear Thesis. Developing a thesis can be hard, and that’s one reason that students often try a trick to avoid developing one. Many students will write an entire research paper and then come to a conclusion. After coming to the conclusion, they then take the conclusion and rewrite it as the thesis statement. While this might work for very simple research papers, for anything more complex, it ends up leaving too many loose ends and creates a situation where the body of the paper is too loose and formless because there is no clear guiding principle keeping everything on track.
- Omitting the Outline. Once you have a strong thesis, it’s essential to outline your paper. The reason for this is that the outline will help to guide you through the rest of the writing process and make sure that you are not getting off on tangents or writing about details or sub-points that won’t support your thesis. An outline often seems like a waste of time or extra busywork, but it’s not. Because it keeps you focused and shows you exactly what to write, it ends up being a big timesaver over the course of writing your paper.
- Relying Too Much on Google. The internet is an amazing tool, but it has its limits. Too many professors report that students simply type their paper topic into a search engine and try to write a paper around the first three or five results. This is a bad idea for a number of reasons. The first is practical: Professors have Google, too, and they can tell when a paper has been jerry-built around search results. The second reason is the more important one: There are many valuable sources not indexed by Google or its rivals, including academic resources such as many journal articles. Use your school’s library to find scholarly sources, and be selective about what you choose. Not all effective results land on the first page of results.
- Not Following the Instructions. Our final mistake is in many ways the most important. The biggest reason that students lose points on assignments is because they didn’t follow the instructions. Assignments lay out exactly what needs to be in a paper, and you should always double check to make sure that you have addressed each and every point. Many assignments also come with a grading rubric that explains how you are expected to address each point. Take the help and use what you’ve learned from the rubric to make sure your paper hits all the right marks so you can receive the highest possible marks on your paper.
Once you learn to recognize the key mistakes that the typical student makes in custom research paper writing, you can avoid those same pitfalls and deliver high-quality essays that will wow your instructor!