Term Paper Mistakes

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Research Paper

When writing a research paper, there are some predictable traps that students tend to fall into time and time again. Being aware of these potential pitfalls before starting your paper can go a long way in helping you to successfully avoid them. This will take away a tremendous amount of stress and frustration. You’ll then be able to write a paper that will impress your instructor and a paper that you will be proud of.

Here are some of the most common mistakes students make when writing a research paper:

1. Lack of research before choosing a thesis statement.

Sometimes, when stressed or busy, students will rush their selection of a subject for a paper. As a result, their focus and connection with the subject matter can suffer greatly, and inevitably this comes through in their writing. Doing good research and choosing a subject you feel you can connect to are important steps in writing a successful thesis statement, and ultimately a successful paper.

2. Lack of a strong thesis statement.

Once you select a subject, creating a strong thesis statement is the next step. This is a critical, foundational element for a successful paper. One hallmark of a successful thesis statement is that you “take a stand,” or a definite point of view. The thesis statement should be clear and express one main idea. It should be about a topic that warrants further discussion. A good thesis statement is genuine, compelling, and makes the reader want to continue.

3. Failure to make appropriate connections between the thesis statement and supporting statements.

The structure of a research paper flows from the thesis statement to the supporting statements, which comprise the body of the paper. The best research papers are in effect a sustained inquiry and a stimulating discussion of a well-defined topic. You paper must transition effectively from your thesis statement to your supporting statement.

4. Lack of strong, relevant data to support statements.

All supporting statements in a paper should be backed up by relevant sources which substantiate the point of view put forward by the thesis statement. Your supporting statements should flesh out your original thesis statement and have a basis in strong, factual data that you cite and the reader can easily verify.

5. Failure to properly cite sources.

Proper credit must be given for all data and references used within a paper. Specific requirements for doing so can vary depending upon the instructor. Whether you’re working in the MLA style or some other format, each style has specific parameters and guidelines for citing sources. Be sure to check with your instructor for specifics so that you can cite sources within the required guidelines.

Fortunately, there is now software on the market that can help in this area of writing research papers. Whether it’s MLA style format, APA or some other, formatting software can help take the guesswork out of the citation process.

Being aware of these common pitfalls when writing a research paper, can go a long way helping you avoid making these mistakes. If you do, you will be well on your way to writing a top-notch research paper.

David Plaut

David Plaut is the founder of Reference Point Software (RPS). RPS offers a complete suite of easy-to-use formatting template products featuring MLA and APA style templates, freeing up time to focus on substance while ensuring formatting accuracy. For more information, log onto http://www.referencepointsoftware.com/ or write to:
info @ referencepointsoftware.com

Reference Point Software is not associated with, endorsed by, or affiliated with the American Psychological Association (APA) or with the Modern Language Association (MLA).

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Updated by College Atlas

The following are common errors frequently made by students who are writing college term papers:

  • Not following instructions. Thoroughly read essay instructions. Ask the instructor for clarification if you’re confused about instructions.
  • Forgetting to proofread. Carefully read the essay for grammar, spelling, and other errors.
  • Poorly developed introduction and conclusion. Without a catchy introduction, your audience can quickly lose interest. Likewise, the conclusion provides you with an opportunity to re-summarize and emphasis main points.
  • Incorrect capitalization of proper nouns. Capitalize proper nouns, but don’t capitalize common ones. Proper nouns reference specific people, places, and organizations, and common nouns reference general places and things, such as mountain, computer, or man.
  • Incorrect use of IT’S and ITS. This is a very common mistake. Its is a pronoun for singular, non-gender specific nouns, while it’s is a shortened form of it is.
  • Poor use of paragraph breaks. Every paragraph must relate to the thesis. Begin a new paragraph when presenting new ideas. Students frequently submit essays with long paragraphs. You should have at least one paragraph per page.
  • Failure to meet the page limit. Always meet the minimum page requirements. Do not use excessively large font sizes to fill space.
  • Incorrect use of commas. Commas are used for various reasons, but they’re most often used to signify pauses. During the editing phase of your writing, read the essay aloud. If it doesn’t flow naturally, check for comma problems.
  • Run-on sentences. Two independent clauses without any punctuation is known as a run-on sentence.
  • Comma splices. Two independent clauses separated with a comma is known as a comma splice.
  • Papers that are not properly attached. Instructors are usually responsible for grading numerous essays. If you do not properly attach essay pages, some of your work could get misplaced. Use a staple, binder, or clip to attach all the pages in your essay together. Use your last name as a header on every page to ensure your essay can be reassembled if pages get misplaced. Do not hand in essays with bent or torn pages.

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Originally posted June 24th, 2014

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