Research papers are some of the most common assignments that university students in the USA have to write. They aren’t the trickiest type of papers, but tons of first-year students still struggle with them. Sure, you can order one from an online professional company, and your paper will probably turn out great. But if you want to write your research yourself, follow these tips to avoid the biggest rookie mistakes.


#1 Make sure you’ve read the instructions a few times

It’s not uncommon for the assignment instructions professors give to be long and convoluted. Make sure you’ve read them thoroughly and understood them correctly before even beginning to work on your paper. If in doubt about anything, contact your instructor in advance for clarifications.

Alternatively, text a couple of your peers and make sure that their visions for the paper align with yours. If they do, it’s a good sign that you’re on the right track. It’s rare for a group of students to make the same mistake when it comes to understanding instructions for research papers or essays.

#2 Choose a topic you’re at least somewhat excited to research

The worst thing a student can possibly do is to write a paper on the topic they have zero interest in. Sure, it’s not always possible to choose what to write about. Sometimes, you just get a specific prompt, and it’s basically impossible to deviate from it. But if the topic you’re given is broad (or if you are free to choose any), jump at the opportunity.

The thing is, if you’re genuinely excited about the essay or case study you’re writing, it is much more likely to turn out well. You will procrastinate less, be more thorough when doing research, and the writing process will be way more enjoyable.

#3 Research the topic before you develop your thesis statement

The one piece of advice professional academic writers from CustomWritings or any other top online research paper writing service will give you is to make sure you know your topic well enough before you come up with the thesis statement. Otherwise, you’ll have to change the trajectory of your argument while writing and your paper will turn out confusing and hard to follow.

#4 Choose your sources well

Some professors emphasize that students can only use academic sources in their papers. But it’s not always the case. Still, if you choose to use an online source, make sure that it’s a reliable website and all articles there are by expert writers. And it’s always better to rely mostly on academic journals and textbooks (regardless of whether or not you’re required to).

Thanks to college library services, you don’t even have to buy expensive books and articles. But if something isn’t available there, ebooks are always an option. They are cheap and sustainable. Do check bookselling companies’ customer reviews first, though. 

#5 Take notes while researching

One more tip that can help a lot is to create a file with all the quotes you intend to use in your paper. It’s better to do this while you’re still reading the sources as opposed to after. This way, you can save time and make your pre-writing process more efficient. And if your research paper includes a literature review section, taking notes during research isn’t optional. Otherwise, you’ll get lost in the sea of articles and different authors’ arguments.

#6 Don’t neglect to outline

Also, outlining is essential for writing a decent research paper. A writer with an outline is unlikely to get off-topic or mix up their arguments. An outline is basically a pre-draft of your paper. Once you’ve written one, you no longer have to write from scratch; half of the work is complete. 

Students often see outlining as dull and unnecessary, but they couldn’t be more wrong. So do yourself a favor and write a good, personalized outline first (meaning no subheadings akin to “Body Paragraph II”—be specific).

#7 Acknowledge opponents’ perspectives

One of the common mistakes that students make in research papers is that they fail to highlight points of view that are different from theirs. As a result, the text reads like an argumentative essay instead of a research paper, and the author’s grade suffers. So try to give your opponents justice and acknowledge their arguments (before debunking them with evidence from credible sources).

#8 If possible, include visuals

Visual support is an awesome way to hold the reader’s attention and make it easier for them to follow your arguments. Even more so if the paper includes tons of numbers and statistics. Also, pictures, graphs, and tables make the paper look more professional and like you’ve invested much effort in it.

Sure, pictures aren’t always an option. Choose the type of visual support you use depending on the topic. A sociology paper will likely be full of tables. Graphs and pie charts belong in management research. Be original and creative.

#9 Edit and proofread your draft

Once your paper is complete, make sure to proofread it thoroughly. Nothing is more effective at spoiling the impression than typoes, repetitions, and poor punctuation. Use a typing assistant, especially if English isn’t your first language. Grammarly is the best one, but the quality of ProWriting App and PaperRater is okay, too.

It’s also a good idea to proofread your paper not immediately after you’re done writing but in a couple of hours or, ideally, the next day. This way, it’ll be easier for you to catch mistakes and logical inconsistencies.

#10 Show your research paper to someone before submitting it

Finally, ask a peer, friend, or family member to read your paper before you submit it. No matter how attentive you are while proofreading, an outsider can still see more in your text than you do. If there’s a messy paragraph or a hard-to-follow argument, they’ll catch it. So no matter how hard it is for you to accept negative feedback, don’t jeopardize your grades by submitting your paper without another person reading it first.

Bottom line

Overall, writing a research paper isn’t as difficult as you might think, but it does require some work. As long as you’re writing about something you’re genuinely interested in and start with an outline, you should be fine. Writing research papers will get easier over time.

Other helpful tips are to take notes while doing research, acknowledge different views on your topic, and have someone read your paper before you submit it. Also, if you can include some visual support, like pictures or charts, by all means, please do.

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Vineet Maheshwari is a passionate blogger and relationship oriented digital marketing consultant with over 10 years of experience in SEO, PPC management, web analytics, domain investing, affiliate marketing and digital strategy. He has helped high tech brands connect with customers in an engaging manner, thereby ensuring that high quality leads are generated over time.