Common Problems Encountered in Writing a Research Paper


The research paper writing process requires time and focus, and makes up an integral part in the development of a student's academic work. Avoiding or being able to recognize common problems will ensure that you produce a high quality research paper.

Topic is Too Broad

  • A key to writing a good research paper is to focus your topic as much as possible. Chances are that your topic is too broad if you are wondering where to start writing. For example, instead of writing on "The Economic Crisis," narrow the topic down to "The Effects of the Economic Crisis on Rural Areas in the state of Michigan in 2010." Research requires you to analyze both sides of the topic as well as the topic's cause and effect relationship. Following the example of "The Effects of the Economic Crisis on Rural Areas in the state of Michigan in 2010," the negative aspects of an economic crisis are evident, and some of the positive aspects are that people are using their cars less, which in turn is lowering pollution and increasing the use of environmentally-friendly public transportation.

Deciding Which Sources to Use

  • The sources you decide to use should be credible and from reliable and trusted professionals or organizations. Using any other types of sources only destroys the credibility of the paper you write, and easily breaks down your main argument. Furthermore, do not let the sources themselves guide your paper. When performing your research, keep notes on all the sources you consult and how they influence your ideas and the direction of your paper. Do not write a paper based solely on the sources you have available -- it will sound forced and will not provide appropriate support to your main argument.

Formatting Problems

  • Be sure you follow your professor's and your university's guidelines regarding their preferred formatting style. The three most commonly used formats in research paper writing are MLA, APA and Chicago Style. Although these formats become inherent with practice, beginning writers find them hard to use. Typically universities provide their own guide regarding their preferences, with specifications on how to format the research paper correctly.

Weak Thesis

  • A weak thesis or main argument is the downfall of any research paper, but it is easy to avoid if you do enough initial research before you begin writing. Look for the context of the subject you are writing about; its past, present and future expectations; its pros and cons and arguments in favor of and against it. If you cover all your bases and address them in your research paper, you will avoid this common problem.

Not Giving Yourself Enough Time

  • The writing process is lengthy, and the lack of time when writing is reflected in the quality of the work produced. Last minute research papers are obvious: they are weak, too broad, lack a strong argument, have bad or basic sources and problems with formatting. Taking your time to not only write, but also research your paper and organize your thoughts is imperative in avoiding all these common problems as well as to produce a good piece of work.

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