8 Common Mistakes People Make While Writing a Research Paper

A research paper is a piece of academic writing which involves an in-depth study of a research object or field. To collect data on a particular research topic, researchers conduct experiments or fieldwork, and draw conclusions from it.

8 Common Mistakes People Make While Writing a Research Paper

Writing a research paper is not exclusive to the natural sciences. Social scientists also heavily rely on it to share insights that they have gained through their study. For many students, the writing process of a research project is their least favorite since it is both time-consuming and challenging.

To make this job easier, we have compiled 8 common mistakes that people tend to make in research writing. Steer clear of these mistakes in order to make the process of writing research papers a more manageable task than you might have previously thought. Consider seeking expert assistance for research paper writing to refine and perfect your content further.

  1. Lacking of Planning and Organization

Poor planning and organisation tremendously affects the quality of our research paper. We may have meticulously collected data or made a groundbreaking discovery but our efforts will be in vain if we fail to arrange our ideas in a manner that is easily understood.

Before we begin with the writing process, we should prepare an outline to ensure a smooth flow. This outline will give us an idea about the order in which our arguments should appear so that it makes sense to the reader. For instance, we cannot state the repercussions of the New Education Policy 2020 (NEP) and provide solutions without presenting an overview of the policy first.

In addition to preparing an outline, time management is key. We should set aside an adequate amount of time for each step in the process whether it is for fieldwork, writing, or editing, before making the final submission.

1. Weak Thesis Statement

A thesis statement is written at the beginning of a research paper. It encapsulates the core arguments and objectives of our paper. Writing a well-structured thesis statement is important so that we don’t lose focus of our research objectives. It also allows readers to get an idea in regards to what they can expect from the paper.

A thesis statement should be clear and direct. It should include the topic, the claim, and the major ideas (San Jose State University Writing Centre, 2023). A good way to craft a clear and focused thesis statement is to ask a question about the research topic first. Then, we should aim to answer this question. Likewise, we should refine it by adding the major argument(s). We must also ensure that the thesis statement doesn’t exceed fifty words.

2. Insufficient Literature Review

We write  a research paper when we determine that our insights could add value to an existing body of knowledge. A thorough literature review helps us identify if there is a lack in this pre-existing body of scholarly works. Therefore, to show that we are well acquainted with the research topic and our ideas are indeed novel, it is crucial that we present a thorough literature review.

Some common mistakes that we make while conducting a literature review are, we fail to: (a) refer to adequate academic literature, (b) incorporate important and current literature, (c) include content that is relevant to our research and as a result, lose focus of our topic, and (d) demonstrate how the literature we have cited ties together with our research.

We can overcome these mistakes by filtering literature that are specifically related to our topic. We should also avoid citing articles that lack objectivity, are opinion-based, or have unknown origins. Additionally, we can use Google Scholar to search for materials related to our research by typing the keywords. Some trustworthy sources of academic articles are ResearchGate, JSTOR, Routledge, Oxford and Cambridge.

3. Inaccurate Citations and Referencing

Research writing is further involved because the written paper is meant for the consumption of professionals. Unlike non-academic writing, research writing demands objectivity, formality and strict adherence to sentence structure (University of Sheffield, 2019). Guidelines for referencing and citation, evidence and logic are crucial.

It is essential that we accurately credit authors and their original works in our research paper. To maintain accuracy, we should stick to using one citation style only for both in-text citations and referencing. For instance, if we choose the APA (American Psychological Association) style for in-text citations, we should ensure that our reference list is also well-formatted in the same style. Absence of citation errors such as incorrect format or missing information can make our paper look professional and increase our credibility.

4. Plagiarism

Plagiarism can be described as the not-so-subtle art of copying an already existing work, violating the principles of academic integrity and fairness.

Research papers often insist on readings and writings from several resources without being intentionally accredited to its rightful owner. In many vices, plagiarism is found whether through direct copying or paraphrasing and be it as it may, plagiarism is a serious offence when found guilty. Thus, whilst writing a research paper one must acknowledge proper citations and disciplinary ethos.

We can avoid plagiarism by quoting the original author, using in-text citations, or paraphrasing their ideas. Additionally, we can also use a plagiarism checker to look for similarities before submitting our paper.

5. Ineffective Language and Style

Then, there is the possibility of wrong language and grammar being put into a research paper – be it choice of words, terms, or phrasing errors. Language can be a dogma if not used in a careful manner.

Some common language and style mistakes that we tend to make in research writing are redundancy, spelling errors, poor sentence structuring, and using an informal tone. We can improve our language and style by condensing sentences that are long and difficult to understand. We should also omit using unnecessary and repetitive words. Additionally, we should consider tailoring our paper to fit the specific submission guidelines and meet the expectations of our readers. Using jargon and complex terminologies defeats the purpose. It is likely that individuals outside the field, who are not accustomed to the terms we have used, will feel alienated, consequently, losing interest in our work.

6. Lack of Originality

The catch of writing a research paper is – there are several research papers that have been written before and there will be more. But, we need to ensure our innovative sides are still not compressed whilst comparing with all other benevolent factors. Lacking originality in a research paper is a common pitfall, it results in a paper being dreaded by the readers or it might even be rejected from getting published.

A lot of us tend to summarise what other authors have said in regards to our chosen research topic. If the goal was to know what a particular scholar has uncovered, is it not better to directly engage with their original work instead of a paraphrased version? Moreover, if we don’t make any original contributions to the field, what is the purpose of ‘research’?

As we have mentioned above, the goal of any research should be to add something new to the field. If we fail to do so, we are simply presenting a literature review without addressing the gap or answering the unanswered. The trick is to remember this simple prompt: “What am I bringing to the table?” As researchers, our aim should be to explore the unknown otherwise the body of knowledge will become stagnant. That is why it is essential that we are original and creative in our approach. Unique ideas always stand out. We should also avoid manipulation and fabrication of data to cater to our personal needs. This commitment to maintaining the ethical standards of academic work is crucial to our prosperity.

7. Inadequate Data Presentation

While presenting research findings, it is important that we are mindful about certain things. We shouldn’t misinterpret the data, ignore contradictory findings, draw over generalised conclusions, or provide inadequate explanations of the methodology used.

Visual aids such as diagrams, graphs and charts are important in representing this data as they are easier to comprehend. They not only generate interest but also represent findings and comparisons simply.

8. Neglecting Proofreading and Editing

Proofreading and editing is a very important step in the writing process. We should go through multiple rounds of revision and look for any potential mistakes. The power of revision cannot be overstated. It can safeguard us from making embarrassing mistakes.

While proofreading a paper, we should look for grammatical, spelling, and punctuation mistakes. These minor mistakes can disrupt the entire flow of our paper. We must also ensure that we didn’t leave out any crucial information and likewise, exclude information that is irrelevant to our topic. The arguments, insights, and takeaways presented in our research paper should align with our research objectives.

We should also consider sharing our paper with our mentor and peers. A fresh set of eyes can point out mistakes that we may have overlooked. When selecting people for the review process, we should make sure that they understand the gravity of our work and provide valuable feedback. Based on the suggestions we receive, we can make the necessary edits.


Poor choice of words, incorrect grammar, redundancy, plagiarism, and overlooking the importance of editing are some common mistakes that we make in research writing.

Research writing is about detailing to its last word, paraphrasing, proofreading, editing, and attending to every bit of what has been authored. Producing error-free papers can positively impact our career. It not only makes us look credible but it is also testament to the fact that we strive to produce quality content. As a result, we receive better job prospects and academic offers.

We are hopeful that the commonly made mistakes in research writing that we have highlighted in our article will make you more cautious and help you in avoiding them. We encourage all aspiring researchers to apply these tips and embark on their research writing journey. Through determination and perseverance, we can refine our craft.

Also Read: How to Write Sociologically Essay

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Rifah Sharmeen is a sociology student at the UoD. Her determination to unravel the intricacies of the criminal mind has driven her to pursue a master's degree in criminology.