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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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