Tips for Writing Research Papers

Writing Research Papers

The following is a quick guide that may help you avoid common writing errors. For more detailed assistance, please consult a style manual (e.g., APA Style Manual) or me/tutor.

Choose something you’re interested in or curious about.  Researching your information will be more enjoyable and you’ll write with more enthusiasm.

Common Errors

Typographical errors. Please proofread your work. It would serve you well to organize your time in such a way as to give yourself ample time to proofread before the paper due date. If you are using a computer or word processor, this process will go much quicker. However, do not rely on the word processing program’s spell checker to do your proofreading. Spell checkers only check spelling; they do not check context or usage.

Proper usage. Be sure to use the proper word within the context. The most common usage problems involve the words: of/have, affect/effect, accept/except, then/than, no/know, to/two/too, etc.

Agreement. Be sure that subjects and verbs within sentences agree in number. Plural verbs should be used with plural subjects. Also, be sure that personal pronouns agree in number with their antecedents.

Bigoted language. Try to avoid the use of terms which might offend your audience. Audience analysis is important to achieve the goal of communicating ideas. The use of sexist, racist, or otherwise bigoted language may offend the audience and sabotage your goal as a communicator.

Use of the apostrophe. Avoid using contractions in a research paper, unless they are used in a direct quote. Apostrophes should only be used in formal papers to signify a possessive, such as Jeff’s car. It’s is a contraction of it is; its is the possessive of it.

Sentence structure. Avoid run-on or fused sentences, comma splices, incomplete sentences or sentence fragments, and otherwise awkward constructions.

Tense. Use the proper tense, and do not switch tense within a sentence or paragraph unless context demands the switch of tense.

Quoting. Be sure to quote accurately, and place quotation marks in their proper location in relation to other For example, “quotation marks should be placed after the period.”

Writing Tips

Avoid passive voice; minimize the use of “to be” verbs. Use action verbs.

  • Keep one main idea per paragraph. The paragraph should begin with the thesis statement. Sentences following the thesis statement should modify the thesis. The last sentence should serve as a transition to the next paragraph. This tip implies that paragraphs should contain more than two sentences.
  • Do not use slang or colloquialisms in a research paper (unless in a direct quote).
  • Do not address your reader directly in a research paper through the use of the second person pronouns you, your, or yours, or indirectly through the use of the first person plural pronouns we, our, ours, or us. The author of a paper can never have enough evidence to make claims about all others, including the audience of the paper. Research papers are not for giving advice or prescribing behavior.
  • Use parallel construction within sentences, paragraphs, and the paper as a whole. Do not be afraid to refer back to a statement made earlier in the paper, either directly or indirectly.

Writing Research Papers

Writing Research Papers

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