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 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 or write to:
info @

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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