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Comman Mistakes In Student Research Papers

Mistakes To Avoid In A Research Paper


Once you enter the world of academics, you are expected to master certain skills; writing a research paper for publication is one among them. The chances of mistakes creeping in when you write a paper are very high, but many of these mistakes are predictable and can be avoided if you exercise a little diligence. Here are some such common mistakes students, and how to avoid them:

1. Not having a thesis statement

No matter what your discipline or topic is, your paper should contain a thesis that signposts your central argument. However, many students make the mistake of writing a paper without a thesis. You should keep in mind that a successful research paper is not a mere description of your sources; it requires you to put forward an original argument of your own. Before you start writing the piece, you should dwell on the topic, evaluate your sources, and come up with a concise, clear and contestable thesis statement.

2. Not doing proper research

Writing a badly formulated thesis is as serious a mistake as not having one. The strength of your thesis and the quality of your paper are determined by the research you do. You need to do a thorough research on the topic before making any claims or putting forward any arguments. Do not rush through the process of research, but spend ample time evaluating your sources, reading the existing scholarship, and understanding your field of study.

3. Not using relevant data

Another common mistake that adversely impacts the quality of your paper is the failure to include relevant data. If you submit a piece with little or no relevant supporting data to any reputed peer-reviewed journals,you may face rejection. All your arguments must be substantiated by strong and relevant data whichfurther help you flesh out your points.

4. Not mentioning the limitations of the study

Often students make the mistake of hiding the limitations of their research. No one expects you to write a perfect paper. In fact, there is nothing called a "perfect" research or study; every research can be improved. By acknowledging the limitations of your study you are, in fact, telling the readers that you have evaluated your results and methods thoroughly. A good scholarly paper should not only mention its own limitations but also indicate the possible directions any future research may take.

5. Not citing the sources properly

Of course, you are dealing with a large number of primary and secondary sources, so it is only natural that you fail to cite one or two. It, nevertheless, is aserious mistake; a mistake that may cost you dearly because using sources without giving due credit amounts to plagiarism. All the sources you use and the ideas you borrowed from others should be given proper credit. It is also important to follow a citation style, such as the MLA or APA, as prescribed by the journal.

6. Not having a proper structure

Your ideas, arguments, data and findings are of no use to readers if they are not structured properly. Submitting a chaotically structured research paper ranks top among the mistakes studentsmake, especially when they are faced with tight deadlines. It is in your best interests to prepare an outline of the paper before you start writing it. By creating a sketch for sections and sub-sections, you can ensure better readability and avoid chaos.

7. Leaving the research question unanswered

Your research paper may have a great introduction; you might have used all relevant data and done an impeccable citation. But your paper loses its value ifyou make the mistake of leaving your research question unanswered. The conclusion of any research paper can be a tricky one to write because it is difficult to tie all loose ends. You should revisit your research question and scrutinize it carefully against the rest of the paper before you start answering it.

In many disciplines, publishing is an important part of being a graduate student. Students who go on to secure tenure track faculty positions find that publishing is a vital part of achieving tenure. However, the process behind writing a research paper is not natural to most of us(Hudelson & Perneger, 2004). Learning the rules and a few mistakes to avoid will go a long way when you’re ready to publish your research. Here are five common impediments to getting published.


1. The research question is too vague, too broad or not specified. A clearly stated research question helps you organize the information that should be included in your paper. If your research addressed more than one question, write more than one paper. Think in terms of “optimally publishable units” rather than “least publishable units.”

2. The structure of the paper is chaotic. It can be easy to unintentionally include methods in your results section or results in your discussion section. Take the time to clearly outline your research paper before you begin to write, keep in mind what each section needs to accomplish.
• Introduction -state your research question
• Methods - describe how you answered your research question
• Results - explain what you observed
• Discussion - discuss what you think your results mean


3. Limitations of the study are not acknowledged. Your discussion section tells readers what you think your results mean, both for moving your research forward and to indicate ways your research can be improved. Readers will want to learn more about your limitations, ways you can improve your research and implications the limitations have on your research question. Including limitations shows a thorough evaluation of your methods and result.


4. The research question is not answered. Because the discussion section allows for the most freedom, it also can be the most difficult section to
write. Before you start this section, go back to your research question and think about how you want to answer it. Revisit your research question frequently while writing the discussion.


5. Grammar and use of language are poor. The Writing Center (http://www.unl.edu/writing/) provides free consultations for graduate students
with graduate students who can help you at any point in your writing, especially when you’re polishing and finalizing yourresearch paper. Use resources such as Elements of Style by Strunk and White to become familiar with the proper use of grammar.

Books and articles about publishing research articles are available from a number of sources. Here are just a few.

Becker, H.S.(1986). Writing for social scientists: How to start and finish your thesis book or article.Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Choi, K. (2002). How to publish in top journals, available at: http://www.roie.org/howi.htm.

Thyer, B.A. (1994). Successful publishing in scholarly journals. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Source

Hudelson, P.M., & Perneger, T.V. (2004). Writing a research article for beginners. Journal for Quality in Health Care, 16, 191-192.

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