- By Jason Bacot
- Published 01/26/2011
Many students, whether in high school, college, or even graduate school, dread the research paper. Even if they consider themselves to have good research and writing skills, there is always the variable of the teacher as audience: will the teacher appreciate the effort and understand what the student is trying to say in his or her research paper? There are six areas that may cause the student difficulty in writing a research paper. Addressing them in a timely manner can help greatly in writing a solid research paper and achieving good marks for it. 1. The roadblock of gathering enough specific information. Finding information today is not that much of a challenge, but finding high quality information that meets the standards and requirements of a specific research paper might be. What does the instructor accept as valid sources of information? Which internet sources are allowed and disallowed? Finding out the answers to these questions can be the key to getting a good start on a research paper. 2. The roadblock of writing with the audience in mind. This can be a two-edged sword. Writing in a manner solely designed to get on the instructor’s good side can result in getting a good grade, but whether it helps the student actually learn anything about the topic is questionable. The student has to balance the need for valuable content with the need to address the specific mechanical requirements of the assignment. Often this can only be done through regular communication with the teacher as to whether the student is on the right track. 3. The roadblock of stating a position. With a research paper, the teacher wants the student to take a position on a particular topic. Only a poor quality instructor is unwilling to consider differing viewpoints. Students shouldn’t be afraid to come to their own position on the topic and create their own thesis statement for the paper. 4. The roadblock of supporting a stated position with reasoning, logic, and evidence. Even if the instructor shares the same viewpoint as the student on the research topic, it should not excuse the student from having to support that viewpoint using methods appropriate to the class. 5. The roadblock of coping with an issue’s complexity. The student has to be careful not to oversimplify or overly complicate the issue. The complexity must be appropriate to the student’s grade level, how advanced the class is, and how much experience he or she brings to the topic. 6. The roadblock of organizing the research paper. While this is often a matter of simply keeping up with assignments, the organizational aspects of writing a research paper may not be perceived as all that important by the student. However, the organizational steps can mean the difference between a coherent, concise paper and a rambling, unorganized one.
Students must be prepared to pay attention to the organizational/mechanical aspects of writing a research paper, while researching acceptable sources and building a viewpoint that he or she can support logically and with evidence. Research papers aren’t easy for a lot of students, but realizing some of the common problems students have with them may help them avoid some of those problems.