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Writing a Research Paper

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The pages in this section provide detailed information about how to write research papers including discussing research papers as a genre, choosing topics, and finding sources.

The Research Paper

There will come a time in most students' careers when they are assigned a research paper. Such an assignment often creates a great deal of unneeded anxiety in the student, which may result in procrastination and a feeling of confusion and inadequacy. This anxiety frequently stems from the fact that many students are unfamiliar and inexperienced with this genre of writing. Never fear—inexperience and unfamiliarity are situations you can change through practice! Writing a research paper is an essential aspect of academics and should not be avoided on account of one's anxiety. In fact, the process of writing a research paper can be one of the more rewarding experiences one may encounter in academics. What is more, many students will continue to do research throughout their careers, which is one of the reasons this topic is so important.

Becoming an experienced researcher and writer in any field or discipline takes a great deal of practice. There are few individuals for whom this process comes naturally. Remember, even the most seasoned academic veterans have had to learn how to write a research paper at some point in their career. Therefore, with diligence, organization, practice, a willingness to learn (and to make mistakes!), and, perhaps most important of all, patience, students will find that they can achieve great things through their research and writing.

The pages in this section cover the following topic areas related to the process of writing a research paper:

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5 Reasons Why Research Paper Writing Is So Difficult for Students

5 Reasons Why Research Paper Writing Is So Difficult for Students

A research paper is designed to test a student's capability to interpret a topic, collect information, analyze it and write a comprehensive essay. For one reason or another, students tend to fall short of these skills that lead to underperformance in the long run. Nowadays, there are alternative solutions to research paper writing including buying research papers from online experts. Still, there are some vital aspects of a research paper that should be perfected for a student to garner exemplary scores. Let us highlight some of the reasons why students find paper writing difficult. 

What Prevents You from Writing a Research Paper? - These 5 Points

1. Tough Topic Is Chosen

The right topic makes it possible for everything else to fall in place. It is crucial for students to make their choice keenly. Unfortunately, there are two excesses - whether a student selects the simplest research paper topics that are explored enough or too complex topics that are hardly investigated. Keep in mind that It isn't a good idea to follow controversial topics . The right topic should be easy to approach and easy to back up as well.  Additionally, it should be wide enough to allow numerous data sources for a timely, pocket-friendly and effortless research process. 

2. No Free Time to Deal with Writing

In addition to the choice of complex topics, there is a lack of time to explore them. As soon as a student is assigned with the task to write a research paper or any other paper, there is an urgent need to do something. What haven't you done recently? Go shopping, cook, do the laundry and clean your rooms. All that can be named as simple procrastination. However, there are those who really lack time to perform written tasks - full-time or part-time workers, family people, athletes, etc. Without any doubt, it will be difficult for them to write term papers.

3. 100% Original Research Is Required

The time needed to write a good research paper is extended because of different research paper requirements. One of the aspects that students fail to get right is the originality - it is required to have the total originality. How does it usually happen? A student is given a topic, and he/she tries to find any relevant paper on the given topic coping some ideas and pasting them in a paper. Isn't familiar to you? Surely! But it doesn't simplify the whole research and writing process. Nonetheless, even after finding the right sources, there is the issue of proper structuring so that all will look academically correct. 

4. Strong Writing Skills Shortage

After selecting a topic and conducting research, now it comes to putting the findings in a way that answers the research question. Writing a term paper can be a nightmare for most students. Some of them simply do not believe in their own work, hence, end up buying research papers. Others rush against time thus churning out mediocre papers. Moreover, inadequate knowledge of a topic may result in a poor flow of ideas as well as the presentation of illogical arguments. 

5. Some Editing Issues Confuse

The average length of a term paper falls between 15 to 20 quality pages. Such bulky content demands time for one to go through, edit and fine tune. Well, students do shoddy work when it comes to editing. While some fail to pay attention to key areas, others do it in a rush or neglect the editing process totally. Thorough editing is as important as any other step in writing research papers. 

5 Key Steps for Easy and Quick Research Paper Writing

1. Select an Adequate Topic

The very first way towards writing a research paper fast and easily is to select a topic that is doable.  It should be a topic that one understands better thus opening room to more sources of information for stronger arguments. Besides that, a broad topic makes the research process easy. You should stay away from topics that are sensitive or controversial as they will draw research participants away. 

2. Do Extensive Research 

Extensive research on a chosen topic should be undertaken before an outline for the paper is created. Research provides sufficient information to back up the main topic. However, the research should be done from credible sources. This helps with citation hence eliminating plagiarism.  Information from multiple sources will be more solid compared to evidence drawn from one source. To avoid all the hustle that comes citing and crediting the sources, you can rewrite or paraphrase.

3. Come up with the Coherent Structure of the Paper

The structure of a term paper includes key chapters or parts, paragraphs and other points that play a great role in the content presentation. It gives the paper that neat look in addition to keeping it organized. Furthermore, it makes it easy for students to figure out how information will be distributed so that the content will look logical and logically complete. It is vital for the whole text to be written in a similar format. 

4. Draft a Research Paper Several Times

All ideas and arguments should be presented in a way that is logical. Other than that, there should be a strong connection between the thesis and the evidence provided to answer the research question. Proper grammar and language use has to be observed as well. The best conclusion is composed of an overview of the most important facts in the body. It helps to emphasize your arguments in the paper.  

5. Do Through Proofreading and Editing

Proofreading and editing will get rid of any errors that might be overlooked while writing. Texts and sentences that do not conform to the main topic are to be eliminated.

Research paper writing has to be done perfectly owing to an integral part of the education system. It is possible to write the papers fast and easy with the guide above. Nonetheless, you should not hesitate to order or purchase a custom research paper from online professionals in case you are overwhelmed.

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The Difficulties of Scientific Writing

As an undergraduate, I typically spent one week or less on writing assignments, regardless of how much time my instructor gave me. It was my natural ability — or so I thought at the time — that made me adept at writing so well in such a short time. When I arrived at graduate school, I thought that my natural writing skills  would help me rise to the challenge of scientific writing. The goal of this article is to suggest that natural writing skills get far too much credit in scientific writing. In other words, writing is hard for everyone. In what follows, I detail some of the struggles of my early scientific writing experience while offering valuable lessons that I found helpful.

Everyone Struggles

Writing a research manuscript is difficult on many levels. The structure of a scientific manuscript differs from undergraduate writing, and this structure takes time to learn. Beyond this, data analysis can be challenging, particularly when results between studies are slightly inconsistent or if your current results show patterns that differ from patterns reported in the literature. Citing the work of others is also a challenge; knowing which articles are the most appropriate to reference in your given field requires experience. Finally, identifying your unique contribution to the literature can be challenging given all the previous research likely done on topics related to your manuscript. In light of all these considerations, it is easy for graduate students to feel overwhelmed, under-qualified, and in need of an advisor.

Every graduate student battles with these writing challenges, and others have written at length about ways to improve (e.g., Roediger, 2007). In my own experience, I have taken the behaviorist approach of B. F. Skinner (1954). For example, I tend to write in the same place and at the same time every day of each week. In Skinner’s language, the time and context reinforces the writing behavior. I find that being in a writing frame of mind helps me rise to the challenge and minimizes long spells spent staring at a blinking cursor.  Taking a second lesson from behaviorism, the rats in Skinner’s experiments developed associations between behaviors and rewards after many consecutive trials. In writing, my greatest improvements have come from practice and rehearsal, not epiphany or revelation.

Embrace Criticism

Science improves through critical review, but even knowing that, I could not help but take some of the criticism I have received personally. Given the time spent on a research project from start to finish, taking critical comments personally is a natural reaction but not a helpful one. Criticism is so important for improving one’s writing, and there are many opportunities to seek out reviews from peers. I have relied on lab meetings to solicit comments from my fellow graduate students for manuscripts I am preparing. In addition to these meetings, I joined a writing group with several fellow students to continue receiving critical reviews of my writing. I also enrolled (twice) in a graduate-level writing course taught by a psychology professor. The students enrolled in this course provided feedback that helped me improve my arguments and develop a writing style based on techniques that worked for me. Any criticism, especially that which is directed at your research, stings. What helped me was getting used to the notion that criticism helps build a stronger manuscript.

Reviews Do Not Determine Writing Success

Having manuscripts rejected from journals remains a painful experience for me. At my most unhappy moments, I think about all the work that went into the paper and all the time spent writing it, ultimately to receive a rejection letter boiled down to three, two, or even one main problem with the paper. Although I have yet to learn how to be unaffected by rejections from journal editors, I have decided instead to celebrate the submission of a manuscript to journals. Submitting an article for review means that you have reached a point where you and your colleagues believe the manuscript makes a contribution to psychological science, and that is an accomplishment worth celebrating. It is important to celebrate one’s writing independent of reviewer critiques. I find that this celebration takes some of the sting off of the inevitable negative reviews.

Enjoy Writing

One of the faculty members in our department often says that “words are your ambassadors.” Although I am unsure about the origins of this statement, its message is clear: One impacts the field of psychology through writing. The purpose of research is to enhance our understanding of the social world through communicating ideas and discoveries. Writing is at the core of any research field, and as such, it helps to enjoy it. As others have noted (Preacher, 2003), writing should be fun for you, and if it is not, then try and make it more bearable. I relish certain parts of writing, such as formulating ideas and framing research implications. These portions help me get through the tedious bits (for me, the methods section).

In my time as a graduate student, I have come to the revelation that writing is hard for everyone. Knowing this, I hope that, as a researcher/writer, you will be equal parts patient with yourself and dedicated to your improvement as you continue to hone your writing skills.

APS regularly opens certain online articles for discussion on our website. Effective February 2021, you must be a logged-in APS member to post comments. By posting a comment, you agree to our Community Guidelines and the display of your profile information, including your name and affiliation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations present in article comments are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of APS or the article’s author. For more information, please see our Community Guidelines .

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About the Author

Michael W. Kraus is a social-personality PhD student at the University of California, Berkeley, studying the dynamics of social class and power, transference and close relationships, and nonverbal styles of communication. E-mail: [email protected]

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Guest Blog

What's So Hard about Research?

  • By Jody Passanisi and Shara Peters  on  June 19, 2013

We are told that the students that we teach are “digital natives.” This term implies that from the time they were born, technology has played such a large part in students’ lives that they know no other way. Also, it has been noted that digital natives have an aptitude for technology that is significantly different from the older generations (who have been dubbed “digital immigrants”); the joke goes that if you give a digital native and a digital immigrant a new digital camera, the native will be taking pictures before the immigrant has finished reading page two of the manual. The assumption is that this new generation is simply better than us at technology.

However, as we wrote about in another article for Scientific American , just because students are digital natives, does not mean that they have skills to figure out all technology, or to use technology in a purposeful way. We noticed that, though these digital natives have the world of information at their fingertips, for some reason they are often unable to take basic problem-solving skills and apply them to simple online research. They had no problem figuring out how to work the newest update to Facebook, but when asked to find out any information that required the smallest amount of critical thinking, students were hampered. The best example we have of this is when we asked students what the most important causes of the Revolutionary War were—we heard a student ask Siri: “What are the most important causes of the Revolutionary War?” When Siri did not know the answer, the student said, “I don’t know, I can’t find it.”

Students can find out basic names, dates, and facts through online research. If we ask them what year the Declaration of Independence was signed, they will Google that exact question, and most of the time, produce the right answer. But when asked to research a question that does not have one “right” answer, the room quickly dissolves into a chorus of “I don’t get it” and “I need help” and “I can’t find it.”

In this article we will attempt to answer this question that we have posed and discussed often here at Scientific American:

What about online research is challenging to students?

Through observation of our students, we have come up with five hypotheses as to why this may be:

· Students today are accustomed to instant gratification, and therefore can be overwhelmed by tasks that require time-consuming research.

There are very few things in life that our students have to wait for today. Information they need to know is posted instantly online, they can connect with their friends through social media without needing to wait for school the next day, and Googling a question will give them a quick answer to any fact they want to know. However, research isn’t actually easy--in fact, it’s quite deceptive how the Internet makes it seem easy. In reality, research requires students to read, interpret, and analyze new information, reshape their research question, and start again. This kind of sustained focus on a challenging task is very hard for most students to hold. Here is an exchange that exemplifies this facet of the issue:

Student : “I can’t find anything about the buildings of the South during Reconstruction.”

Teacher: “Ok, show me what sites you’ve used.”

(Student pulls up an article from the History Channel)

Teacher: “Well, I see a good starting place right here. It says that much of the South was destroyed during Sherman’s March to the Sea during the Civil War. Why don’t you find out what areas his march destroyed, and then look up those cities to see what kind of destruction they faced?”

Student: (while pouting and walking back to his desk) “But that’s going to take forever !”

What the student meant to tell the teacher was, “ I can’t find anything easily about the buildings of the South during Reconstruction.” It isn’t true that, as a whole, these students have a difficult time with sustained attention. They do not stop researching and begin another activity because they got distracted; in our experience, they are more likely to spin themselves in circles making no progress for an entire class period because they do not want to go through a cognitive process that will take “forever.”

· When researching online, students unsuccessfully scan pages of text as opposed to reading those pages of text for comprehension. Therefore, they cannot tell whether or not the source they are looking at is applicable to their research question.

There are many techniques one can use to quickly locate information on an Internet page. For example, CTRL + F will bring up a “find” tool that will allow you to highlight all instances of a particular word or phrase on a page. Students use this tool quite frequently; when one student needed to find out what President Polk thought about U.S. expansion, she found an article about expansion, hit CTRL + F, and searched for “Polk.” All of the results on the page linked Polk to legislation that was passed, and land that was acquired during his term, but nowhere on the page could she find a sentence that said that President Polk thought that expansion was ________. Instead of reading the article and using inductive reasoning to figure out that President Polk was probably in favor of expansion, she told us that she couldn’t find the answer.

There are a few factors that we believe are at work here. It is faster to CRTL + F a keyword than it is to read an article, so perhaps some of hypothesis number 1 is at work, here: students want to take the fastest and quickest route. However, there are also issues of monitoring reading comprehension. The problem is not necessarily that the language of the article was too sophisticated for this student; the real problem is that she never stopped to ask herself the question, “Do I understand what this means?”

· When students are given a research prompt by their teacher, students often do not care enough about the topic to really persevere. Therefore, when they find that answers are not immediately apparent, they do not have the motivation necessary to fuel their sustained attention.

We have noticed that when students look up information we tell them to look up, they ask us many questions during a class period. Most are interested in making sure they have the “right answers”, and checking that their assignment is “long enough”. When students conduct research about a topic they have interest in, they have a much stronger sense of purpose. While some do still ask us questions in which they seek our approval, it is more often for approval about their thoughts pertaining to content than for approval of the length of their assignment. They seem to take more ownership of the material, and think about it on a higher level.

· Because there is so much information online, and not all of it is credible, Internet search results can be overwhelming to students. Therefore, the amount of information paralyzes rather than empowers students.

It seems counter-intuitive that a student could pull up 500,000 search results and still tell her teacher that she can’t find anything (just like flipping through a billion channels on cable, but finding that nothing is on)-- but students do often feel that way. The best way to illustrate this is to describe the difference in student responses when they were researching using a search engine other than Google.

Dulcinea Media came up with a search engine designed for students called SweetSearch . It works similarly to Google, in that there is a database of files that one can search by typing keywords into a search bar. What is different about SweetSearch is that the database only contains 30,000 documents, all of which have been previously vetted for academic reliability. For a particular project, the only Internet search engine we allowed the students to use was SweetSearch.

When they researched in class using Google, five to ten students per class period would say they were unable to find what they needed. When they researched in class using SweetSearch, there was not a single student who told us that they could not find any information about their topic. So whether students liked using SweetSearch or not, it is clear that it helped them be more successful when conducting their research.

· Developmentally, middle school students are just beginning to be able to think critically, but they seem programmed to look for “the” answer, and do not have a strong sense of self-efficacy when presented with open-ended questions.

Some of our unit assessments are structured in the style of Project Based Learning where students can present their findings in any form, as long as it answers the inquiry-based prompt. Many students were very uncomfortable with the idea that they would be making the decision about what form their project will take, and continually tried to get a stamp of approval. Questions like, “Do you think it will be okay if we make a movie?” Or “Will it be good if we make a poster?” were all answered with some version of, “It doesn’t matter what we think. What do you think?” We could see the frustration in their faces when they did not get the answer they wanted, but our goal here was for them to realize that their opinions were the ones that mattered.

Students also asked for their teachers’ opinions about their research findings. Students felt unsure about their authority, and wanted us to tell them that they had found the right answer. It takes the responsibility off of them; however, we wanted the students to take ownership of the information, and unless they were historically inaccurate in their findings (which almost never happened), we answered all of these questions in the same manner as the questions about their projects: “It doesn’t matter what I think. What do you think?”

Now that we know students struggle with research, now that we’ve discussed why that might be so, what steps can we take to help improve the situation? The next frontier for us will be to design curricular interventions that help students overcome some of these challenges they face, and to provide opportunities--like our Project Based Learning research unit assessment-- for students to research in more productive ways. SweetSearch and critical thinking are just the beginning. This question of research will only be more acute in the coming years as information in this age is becoming even more accessible and available to students. It is our job as their teachers to help students understand and be able to use this information that they discover.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


Recent articles by jody passanisi and shara peters.

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  • Research paper

Writing a Research Paper Introduction | Step-by-Step Guide

Published on September 24, 2022 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on March 27, 2023.

Writing a Research Paper Introduction

The introduction to a research paper is where you set up your topic and approach for the reader. It has several key goals:

  • Present your topic and get the reader interested
  • Provide background or summarize existing research
  • Position your own approach
  • Detail your specific research problem and problem statement
  • Give an overview of the paper’s structure

The introduction looks slightly different depending on whether your paper presents the results of original empirical research or constructs an argument by engaging with a variety of sources.

Table of contents

Step 1: introduce your topic, step 2: describe the background, step 3: establish your research problem, step 4: specify your objective(s), step 5: map out your paper, research paper introduction examples, frequently asked questions about the research paper introduction.

The first job of the introduction is to tell the reader what your topic is and why it’s interesting or important. This is generally accomplished with a strong opening hook.

The hook is a striking opening sentence that clearly conveys the relevance of your topic. Think of an interesting fact or statistic, a strong statement, a question, or a brief anecdote that will get the reader wondering about your topic.

For example, the following could be an effective hook for an argumentative paper about the environmental impact of cattle farming:

A more empirical paper investigating the relationship of Instagram use with body image issues in adolescent girls might use the following hook:

Don’t feel that your hook necessarily has to be deeply impressive or creative. Clarity and relevance are still more important than catchiness. The key thing is to guide the reader into your topic and situate your ideas.

This part of the introduction differs depending on what approach your paper is taking.

In a more argumentative paper, you’ll explore some general background here. In a more empirical paper, this is the place to review previous research and establish how yours fits in.

Argumentative paper: Background information

After you’ve caught your reader’s attention, specify a bit more, providing context and narrowing down your topic.

Provide only the most relevant background information. The introduction isn’t the place to get too in-depth; if more background is essential to your paper, it can appear in the body .

Empirical paper: Describing previous research

For a paper describing original research, you’ll instead provide an overview of the most relevant research that has already been conducted. This is a sort of miniature literature review —a sketch of the current state of research into your topic, boiled down to a few sentences.

This should be informed by genuine engagement with the literature. Your search can be less extensive than in a full literature review, but a clear sense of the relevant research is crucial to inform your own work.

Begin by establishing the kinds of research that have been done, and end with limitations or gaps in the research that you intend to respond to.

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The next step is to clarify how your own research fits in and what problem it addresses.

Argumentative paper: Emphasize importance

In an argumentative research paper, you can simply state the problem you intend to discuss, and what is original or important about your argument.

Empirical paper: Relate to the literature

In an empirical research paper, try to lead into the problem on the basis of your discussion of the literature. Think in terms of these questions:

  • What research gap is your work intended to fill?
  • What limitations in previous work does it address?
  • What contribution to knowledge does it make?

You can make the connection between your problem and the existing research using phrases like the following.

Now you’ll get into the specifics of what you intend to find out or express in your research paper.

The way you frame your research objectives varies. An argumentative paper presents a thesis statement, while an empirical paper generally poses a research question (sometimes with a hypothesis as to the answer).

Argumentative paper: Thesis statement

The thesis statement expresses the position that the rest of the paper will present evidence and arguments for. It can be presented in one or two sentences, and should state your position clearly and directly, without providing specific arguments for it at this point.

Empirical paper: Research question and hypothesis

The research question is the question you want to answer in an empirical research paper.

Present your research question clearly and directly, with a minimum of discussion at this point. The rest of the paper will be taken up with discussing and investigating this question; here you just need to express it.

A research question can be framed either directly or indirectly.

  • This study set out to answer the following question: What effects does daily use of Instagram have on the prevalence of body image issues among adolescent girls?
  • We investigated the effects of daily Instagram use on the prevalence of body image issues among adolescent girls.

If your research involved testing hypotheses , these should be stated along with your research question. They are usually presented in the past tense, since the hypothesis will already have been tested by the time you are writing up your paper.

For example, the following hypothesis might respond to the research question above:

The final part of the introduction is often dedicated to a brief overview of the rest of the paper.

In a paper structured using the standard scientific “introduction, methods, results, discussion” format, this isn’t always necessary. But if your paper is structured in a less predictable way, it’s important to describe the shape of it for the reader.

If included, the overview should be concise, direct, and written in the present tense.

  • This paper will first discuss several examples of survey-based research into adolescent social media use, then will go on to …
  • This paper first discusses several examples of survey-based research into adolescent social media use, then goes on to …

Full examples of research paper introductions are shown in the tabs below: one for an argumentative paper, the other for an empirical paper.

  • Argumentative paper
  • Empirical paper

Are cows responsible for climate change? A recent study (RIVM, 2019) shows that cattle farmers account for two thirds of agricultural nitrogen emissions in the Netherlands. These emissions result from nitrogen in manure, which can degrade into ammonia and enter the atmosphere. The study’s calculations show that agriculture is the main source of nitrogen pollution, accounting for 46% of the country’s total emissions. By comparison, road traffic and households are responsible for 6.1% each, the industrial sector for 1%. While efforts are being made to mitigate these emissions, policymakers are reluctant to reckon with the scale of the problem. The approach presented here is a radical one, but commensurate with the issue. This paper argues that the Dutch government must stimulate and subsidize livestock farmers, especially cattle farmers, to transition to sustainable vegetable farming. It first establishes the inadequacy of current mitigation measures, then discusses the various advantages of the results proposed, and finally addresses potential objections to the plan on economic grounds.

The rise of social media has been accompanied by a sharp increase in the prevalence of body image issues among women and girls. This correlation has received significant academic attention: Various empirical studies have been conducted into Facebook usage among adolescent girls (Tiggermann & Slater, 2013; Meier & Gray, 2014). These studies have consistently found that the visual and interactive aspects of the platform have the greatest influence on body image issues. Despite this, highly visual social media (HVSM) such as Instagram have yet to be robustly researched. This paper sets out to address this research gap. We investigated the effects of daily Instagram use on the prevalence of body image issues among adolescent girls. It was hypothesized that daily Instagram use would be associated with an increase in body image concerns and a decrease in self-esteem ratings.

The introduction of a research paper includes several key elements:

  • A hook to catch the reader’s interest
  • Relevant background on the topic
  • Details of your research problem

and your problem statement

  • A thesis statement or research question
  • Sometimes an overview of the paper

Don’t feel that you have to write the introduction first. The introduction is often one of the last parts of the research paper you’ll write, along with the conclusion.

This is because it can be easier to introduce your paper once you’ve already written the body ; you may not have the clearest idea of your arguments until you’ve written them, and things can change during the writing process .

The way you present your research problem in your introduction varies depending on the nature of your research paper . A research paper that presents a sustained argument will usually encapsulate this argument in a thesis statement .

A research paper designed to present the results of empirical research tends to present a research question that it seeks to answer. It may also include a hypothesis —a prediction that will be confirmed or disproved by your research.

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Why are research papers written in language that's difficult for undergraduate students?

As an undergraduate student, I find it hard to understand research papers on any particular subject.

Why don't researchers use simple language for their reports, so that everyone would understand?

Update: I will leave this post as a general discussion on this topic. Feel free to edit question.

  • publications

Greg's user avatar

  • 21 Strongly related question: Why do researchers sometimes use extremely complicated English sentences to convey their meaning? –  Nobody May 22, 2018 at 12:08
  • 6 Papers are not necessarily written for undergraduate students to understand. They are usually for other researchers in the field. Filling in all the gaps that would allow undergraduates to understand everything would result in a textbook (which is probably most of what you are reading these days...). –  Jared Becksfort May 25, 2018 at 14:55
  • 5 @ZulfidinKhodzhaev Well, that's totally excusable. They're just showing the calculation while skipping trivial steps, i.e. the steps that every physicist knows how to fill in themselves. Because you're still a student, you don't know the trivial steps yet, but that's not their fault. If they had as much detail as an intro QM class the paper would be 200 pages. –  knzhou May 26, 2018 at 8:23
  • 2 What is the audience for a research paper? –  Bob Jarvis - Слава Україні May 26, 2018 at 23:02
  • 2 @BobJarvis the primary audience of a research paper is the researchers in the same subfield/community, who would be expected to have read (or at least be aware of) most of existing knowledge that the paper is builds upon; the main purpose of an original research paper is to disseminate the new knowledge that wasn't known to anyone and wasn't ever published before. –  Peteris May 28, 2018 at 11:01

15 Answers 15

In short, because it is difficult to express something concisely , and precisely in language that any undergraduate can understand.

Conciseness is required not just because without it every report would be inconveniently long to write and to read, but because it would be harder to understand. It would be harder to understand because the jargon neatly encapsulates a bundle of concepts (e.g. its definition and related properties) into a single concept. And we can only be thinking about so many concepts at a time.

Consider the statement about the Stone–Weierstrass theorem:

A mathematician might say:

Polynomial functions are dense in C[a,b] ⊂ (ℝ→ℝ)

To expand out the math, so that one does not have to know the notations on gets:

Polynomial functions are dense in the space of continuous real-valued functions defined on a closed interval.

But still perhaps the word dense is beyond the understanding of an undergrad.

So let's expand it to not use that:

For every continuous real-valued function defined an interval; then for any positive real constant one might care to define, a polynomial can be found such that for every point on that interval the absolute difference between the value of that polynomial and the value of the real function at the point is smaller than the constant.

So that is how much most space it took and how many more ideas one has to keep track of for that fairly simple use of jargon. When thinking about such a problem rarely is the mathematician thinking about what is going on with the distance of points in a hypothetical polynomial. They are just thinking "it is dense".

Now imagine expanding all the terms in the generalized version of the above:

Stone–Weierstrass Theorem (real numbers). Suppose X is a compact Hausdorff space and A is a subalgebra of C(X, R) which contains a non-zero constant function. Then A is dense in C(X, R) if and only if it separates points.

(This last is a direct quote from the Wikipedia page on the Stone–Weierstrass theorem , the preceding quotes are not, though are to some extent paraphrases.)

Then to go the other point on preciseness , There is a really high chance someone is going to comment on this answer saying that actually my statement is not quite correct, that I've not fully captured the definitions in my explanation

While, yes, every paper could repeat some introductory information, then that would inconvenience any reader who is looking to find the core idea, since it would be drowned in a sea of background material.

And you might say that "this answer is hard to understand, in the expanded form, you did a poor job at making it understandable to an undergraduate." , and I'ld say "Fair enough; I'm not great at making things easily understandable."

And that statement holds for most other researchers too. Not what most are good at -- it is why there are specialists in scientific communication.

Glorfindel's user avatar

  • 3 Your expansion of the definition of "dense" brings up a different problem. I didn't know the definition before, but it took me several minutes to realize that it boils down to "A polynomial can approximate any continuous function on a closed interval arbitrarily well", which, I think, is far more accessible. –  LLlAMnYP May 25, 2018 at 12:09
  • 8 @LLIAMnYP that is more accessible indeed, but it is less precise . (Honestly it is pretty good; the fact that I didn't use it, in part demonstrates my final point: Like most researcher's I'm not great at making things easily understandable.") –  Frames Catherine White May 25, 2018 at 12:29
  • 5 @LLlAMnYP Note in particular that there are many reasonable topologies one can put on a set of functions, which each yield different notions of what "approximate" means. –  Noah Schweber May 25, 2018 at 22:57
  • 2 @LLlAMnYP: Let me also, in addition to the others, that if every time someone writes "D is dense in X" they should replace it by "we can approximate every point in X by some collection of points from D ordered in some particular way" (read: every point in X is a limit of a net from D), that would be a serious hindrance in both reading and writing. This is why we have a word for "phone" or a word for "sofa", to convey information in a short and precise manner. –  Ink blot May 26, 2018 at 12:31
  • 2 @inkblot very true. We absolutely should use correct words like "X is dense" and "Y is a sofa" and "Z is a phone" and not, god forbid, a "communications device", just because that sounds more "academic". –  LLlAMnYP May 27, 2018 at 14:54

The intended audience of a research paper is not 'everyone'; it is other researchers in the same field.

As a comparison, consider things like car manuals, or legal documents. It would be possible to write these in more accessible language, but that would detract from the primary purpose of the document.

Jessica B's user avatar

  • 26 @ZulfidinKhodzhaev That's why the "crossbred" scienists are scarce and wanted. They are capable of reading and thinking in multiple universes. –  Crowley May 22, 2018 at 13:56
  • 59 Put another way, the purpose of a research paper is to report , not to educate . You don't teach your fellow researchers, you simply tell them what you discovered in a language that they can readily understand. –  J.R. May 22, 2018 at 16:17
  • 3 @J.R. I thought the primary purpose of a research paper was either to fulfill a contractual obligation of a grant or to advertise for a new grant. Reporting and educating is discouraged. –  emory May 23, 2018 at 15:37
  • 13 "Car manuals" seems like a horrible example as they should be targeting the general population, no? Nearly every family owns at least one car and thus has a manual for its basic care. –  jpmc26 May 23, 2018 at 18:47
  • 5 @emory I can't tell whether you are being serious. –  Jessica B May 23, 2018 at 21:19

In short, because undergraduate students are not the target audience of research papers' authors.

G-E's user avatar

  • 2 This only partially answers the question. Sure, they are not the target audience, but it's still extra effort to use difficult words where easy ones would do. This is expected of us (I'm doing a master's right now and a paper written like a blog post... well, nobody ever dared to try) but it also purposefully keeps less well educated people out. This might reduce the noise (if stupid people can't keep up with your conversation, they can't join it) but is that truly the goal? Are we all agreed on that we should keep a large group out, or is it just a practice that stuck? –  Luc May 23, 2018 at 18:15
  • 10 @Luc 'but it's still extra effort to use difficult words where easy ones would do'; errr.... no. The 'difficult' words in this context are the ones you normally use. –  Jessica B May 23, 2018 at 21:21
  • @JessicaB After how much practice in writing papers? Would you use those when you didn't have experience in writing papers, but you did have topical knowledge? I'm currently doing a master's, but I got here via an odd route and while I have had subject knowledge for years, I found papers on the subject quite hard to read (understandable, but it just takes forever to parse it all). It has gotten better, but both reading and writing them takes practice. It's a different kind of English, and I just don't think it's always required to get the point across concisely. –  Luc May 23, 2018 at 21:30
  • 2 @Luc: I got quite the opposite advise when writing one of my first papers: my supervisor told me e.g. to replace a) "advanced" grammar (genitives with 's [which are easy and natural for me as they are similar to what my native language does]) by a more plain construction (of) and b) avoid the use of synonyms in favor of one and the same term. The reasoning was to make reading easier for non-native speakers who possibly have never met the concept of cases and may need to look up terms. –  cbeleites unhappy with SX May 24, 2018 at 10:56
  • 4 @Luc Yes, I would use the same language for the subject as when writing papers. Mathematicians spend a lot of time saying very very carefully what they mean. –  Jessica B May 24, 2018 at 12:33

There are different possible reasons for a paper being "hard to understand".

One of the reasons was already elaborated in the other answers. It basically boils down to the presuppositions and assumptions that are made in technical terms. The writers expect the readers to have some familiarity with the subject. Special jargon or notations are used simply because they allow a certain brevity and precision. When a term has a specific meaning, the meaning is assumed to be known, and in doubt, can be looked up elsewhere. The details of this problem may also depend on the subject: In a mathematical paper, the main hurdle may be understanding certain notations. In a social sciences paper, the main difficulty may be in understanding the precise meaning of certain terms.

But there is another reason. It was also mentioned in the comments, and discussed in other questions . The reason is that the text itself may simply be written in a form that is hard to understand.

Going one level deeper, the obvious next question is: Why is the text written in this form?

I think, broadly speaking, there are two possible answers to this:

  • The text is deliberately written in an elaborated language to generate a linguistically challenging experience for the addressee (meaning: "The author uses complicated words to make it difficult to understand")
  • The author is not able to write it in a simpler form. There is a famous quote: "If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter." (attributed in different forms to different people). Writing an easily comprehensible text is difficult (particularly when the author is not a native English speaker). But improving the text by organizing and rephrasing it so that it concisely and precisely conveys the intended message is time consuming - and people are often (not willing or) not able to invest the required amount of time.

Interestingly, English is the only language for which a dedicated Wikipedia version exists, namely the Simple English Wikipedia - although this is only indirectly related to academic writing, it shows that similar problems exist in other areas.

Marco13's user avatar

  • 2 There's a great piece on this in the New Scientist; Science and Fiction: Plain words, please . There is also another article by the same author published there in April 1968, but I couldn't locate it online. –  LLlAMnYP May 24, 2018 at 10:07
  • @LLlAMnYP Yes, I think the article makes a valid point: After reading several papers that are written like this, newcomers will imitate this style, and people might expect this sort of stilted language (and TBH: I often catch myself falling into this pattern...). This may be related to the imposter syndrome (mentioned in another answer), or just a lack of knowledge of things like The Elements Of Style . In any case, one could explain why people are writing like this, but it's much harder to alleviate this problem. –  Marco13 May 24, 2018 at 10:43
  • 2 Don't forget that tons of papers are written by non-native English speakers who possibly don't have the proficiency to choose a "plain and simple" (elegant) description but will go with however they manage to put their thoughts into the English they know. Plus, at least for Europeans, the idea whether a given English expression is easily understood will differ between speakers of Romance and Germanic mother tongues - each of them possibly prefering the part of English that is closer to their mother tongue. –  cbeleites unhappy with SX May 24, 2018 at 18:40

I think there is a false premise to this question. Namely, the idea that researchers could write the same paper using mostly different words just does not make any sense (to me)!

Using different words makes a different piece of writing.

This is not a phenomenon that is unique to reaearch papers. I don't read books by Faulkner* to my toddler, and I would never complain that Faulkner should have written his books so that they would make sense to a 2-year-old.

Research papers are still pieces of writing. I agonize over words and phrases all the time, and when I'm done writing, there are lots of phrases that illustrate ideas and explain concepts exactly as I want. Outside of changes required/requested for journal editorial purposes, I would be quite unhappy to change these words and phrases. And yes, as others have said, this is affected by who my audience is. But all writing has an intended audience. There is no such thing as a piece of writing intended literally for everybody .

So at least from a personal stand point: I don't use different words mostly because they would be different from the ones I wanted to use :)

*William Faulkner is an American author who has a reputation for some of his writing being difficult to understand/interpret (I would say).

user93116's user avatar

Researchers generally use complicated language because their research covers complex topics. Thus they use words that will be familiar and precise to people who understand the topics. And precisely because these words are familiar to other experts, there is no point trying to explain them in a paper because someone else (probably several someones) will have already explained them better somewhere else. Thus if you are reading a paper as a non-expert (that is, a non-expert in the topic at hand; this applies equally well to experts in other fields) and come across terminology that you don't understand, this is a useful pointer that you should first go and read about it elsewhere. The real danger for non-experts reading scientific papers is that they might read something without realising they didn't understand it.

Especially Lime's user avatar

  • 2 "They might read something without realizing they didn't understand it" - very good point. I think it happened to me a lot. –  Greg May 22, 2018 at 13:47
  • 1 But in addition to complicated words, the vast majority of papers also use complex sentence constructions to sound professional. It's not only because it's simply a complex topic. –  Luc May 23, 2018 at 19:04

Be more precise: are you talking about unnecessarily complex language, or are you confused/irritated by specific terminology?

Some scientists do tend to use overly complex language to differentiate themselves from others "of lesser intellect" as they think. That does happen and is often just a sign of bad style or even bad knowledge as it suggests a level of expertise that might just not be there.

If you have issues with all scientific papers you might need to improve on your language skills. In science you need to be very precise, and stick to certain terminology. And since science papers are intended to be read by other scientists in the same field of research, authors expect readers to be familiar with terminology in that field and will not explain fundamental things. That's up to you.

However, a good paper should at least be easy to follow even though a reader might stumble upon a few expressions he or she is not familiar with.

GoodDeeds's user avatar

  • Thank you for your response, maybe this is one of the reasons I am having trouble understanding research papers. But, I wouldn't limit the problem on this issue. Also, the details are too much shortened. For example, in mathematics, it jumps to conclusion without properly explaining the steps it took to come up with the solution. –  Greg May 22, 2018 at 13:40
  • 2 @ZulfidinKhodzhaev skipping mathematical steps which would be shown at undergraduate level is common, and is usually because the author (correctly or otherwise) thinks that they are obvious or trivial, and that they will be equally obvious or trivial to the intended audience. –  Flyto May 22, 2018 at 14:09
  • 2 @ZulfidinKhodzhaev Again, including all the mathematical details does not match with the intended purpose of a research paper. Personally I'd like to see us move to papers that have expandable sections with more details in. But journal space is primarily for new knowledge, not for showing you are competent in carrying out calculations. –  Jessica B May 23, 2018 at 6:46
  • 1 I generally agree with your response, but: " If you have issues with all scientific papers you might need to improve on your language skills. " To be fair, though, a huge portion of papers are unnecessarily complex. If it all sounds simple, one's boss might think "so why do we need you to do it?" or in case of students, they'd get lower grades because it sounds like it was all easy peasy. We're constantly encouraged (usually without the speaker even realizing it) to make it sound like we're doing true science™ , even if we're describing after how many openings a door hinge breaks. –  Luc May 23, 2018 at 19:01
  • Part of what I'd consider "complicated" English may be simpler English to other non-native English speakers - and vice versa: My mother tongue is German (i.e. quite close to English). I often think e.g. scientists with Romance mother tongue using "complicated" English - but I'm sure they'd say the same of my English: it is just that constructions and terms of English that are close to their native language are not so close to my native language. –  cbeleites unhappy with SX May 24, 2018 at 18:36

I don't think anyone can answer this for sure, but here's a personal guess.

Researchers don't actively attempt to write in an arcane manner. Making one's research accessible is a good thing! However, a genuine concern when writing is that one might be making too many "obvious" statements. Nobody wants to be making obvious statements since it both makes the author look junior + makes the work done seem simple (c.f. imposter syndrome ). This gets more drastic the more experienced a researcher is, since more statements appear obvious to them. Of course what's obvious to an experienced researcher is probably not obvious to undergraduates, who are the unfortunate casualties of this.

I also get the feeling that authors want to make it seem like they have processed what was previously written (or simply want to avoid plagiarism), so when they write a paper using an equation in a previous paper, they commonly write the same equation in slightly different notation, e.g. by using different but equivalent expressions for the same factor. Again, experienced researchers have no trouble but undergraduates are unfortunate casualties.

Here are a couple more articles about this: an article in The Atlantic and another in Nature . Googling for "why are academic papers so hard to read" finds a lot more results.

If you find this ridiculous, then when you write papers in the future, try to make it accessible to a wide audience!

Allure's user avatar

  • 1 For that to be true, the fast majority of faculty would need to suffer from the imposter syndrome. While I would not be surprised if the majority of PhD students have suffered to some extend from the imposter syndrome, most got over it. –  Maarten Buis May 22, 2018 at 13:10
  • @MaartenBuis how do you know? –  Flyto May 22, 2018 at 14:07
  • @Flyto How do I know what? –  Maarten Buis May 22, 2018 at 16:04
  • @MaartenBuis that most people get over their imposter syndrome. –  Flyto May 22, 2018 at 19:41
  • 1 @maarten buis: it seems to be a bit of a stretch to assume that all those who have tenure believe that they deserve it... It's also something of a misrepresentation to describe those who get tenure (or similarly senior positions in places without tenure) as "most". I have no evidence, but I would not be surprised if a majority of academics suffer imposter syndrome from time to time, not just PhD students! –  Flyto May 22, 2018 at 22:33

There is another pair of reasons that many articles are not easily understood but undergrads.

  • Most authors are ESL

I once heard a prominent scholar joke "The language of Physics is broken English". This funny thought stems from the fact that while most articles are published in English, the scholars who write them generally know English as second language .

As a native English speaker, and a graduate student, I have found it difficult to write a paper. Why? Because I had to learn the language as it is used in my field of research. For most papers[1], the primary audience is for other scholars within the same field. Thus the language of the research field becomes a sort of dialect that others must conform too.

  • Published research must be unambiguous

A good sentence in an article should have one, and only one, interpretation. If a sentence has more than one meaning, it does not properly convey the ideas to the reader. This is critical for a big reason. Each sentence makes a claim, and each claim should be provable by research.

Making sentences with only one meaning is sorta hard; it tends to make them technical, long, and ugly.

In contrast, fiction and journalism tend to give you room to imaging things as you want. Much easier to create beautiful flowing sentences if they can be ambiguous.

  • Writing by committee, edited by a grad student

So from what I've seen, most first drafts are written by a grad student who don't write very well (me). It then gets emailed around, and everyone makes changes here and there, and the text of the document becomes incoherent. Then the grad student edits it some more, and is told to submit it. Imagine eating a dinner cooked in this manner!

[1] The exceptions are review papers, which are longer and use much more general language. Easier to read, too

Astor Florida's user avatar

A lot of research papers are arguably written in a deliberately convoluted style to enhance the prestige of the authors: see https://www.plainenglish.co.uk/news/1212-unreadable-academic-writing.html

I rather like this quote: “In academia, it seems that when we have nothing much to say we attempt to distract attention from that sad fact by saying it as pretentiously and at as much length as possible.”

My research supervisor, Maurice Wilkes, had a disarming way of writing that made complex ideas seem very simple, and I have always tried to follow his example. The danger if you do that is that people might not appreciate the value of what you are saying, and many academics don't want to take this risk.

In reviewing papers for conferences I have generally found that when you take time to cut through the jargon, the ideas in difficult-to-read papers are no more profound or precise than the ideas expressed in papers that are much easier to read.

Michael Kay's user avatar

  • 6 Jargon is not something you need to "cut through". It is there to help avoid having to write 5 extra pages explaining each and every concept which will already have been covered better in any introductory textbook on the subject (which the reader is assumed to be familiar with, or why would they be reading research on the topic anyway?). –  Tobias Kildetoft May 23, 2018 at 12:44
  • 1 The person who wrote that article doesn't seem to understand what they are saying. 'People read' does not have the same implication as the given statement, when you are dealing with research on the topic. –  Jessica B May 23, 2018 at 12:56
  • 1 "People read" was from Richard Feynman, not from the author of the article, and was clearly swinging the pendulum in the opposite direction for dramatic effect. But he's justified; the sentence he's quoting uses long words to make what's essentially obvious sound like a profound observation. –  Michael Kay May 23, 2018 at 13:33
  • 4 I noticed, in my undergraduate courses, lecturers who understand the topic well, can explain the theory in an easy language. For example, lecturer who came from different field (i.e. physics), had hard time explaining calculus to us. He tried to avoid the meaning behind the theory/ equations and wrote more definitions. –  Greg May 23, 2018 at 14:43
  • 1 @ZulfidinKhodzhaev: I agree, and I disagree with this answer in that I find that people typically appreciate good explanations. –  cbeleites unhappy with SX May 24, 2018 at 11:01

It is difficult to write scientific papers so that everyone can understand. The reasons have been nicely covered in other answers.

I want to point out that the authors would normally include their emails or addresses in their papers so that anyone can write to them and ask questions about their reports.

If you need to do research and read papers from other fields, you can always contact the authors about their papers. If you indicate your purpose and background, they can usually help. Just don't expect them to teach you the whole subject. I would say using the same etiquette for asking questions on stackexchange.

wtong's user avatar

In addition to the comment of Jessica B, there are even some "method" articles which don't even have a general introduction and directly report technical knowledge. The target audience of paper is crucial. However, after reading 10-20 papers you will start to see general outline so you will not find that difficult.

Research papers are not generally intended to teach; rather, they are designed to inform. However, that does not mean that an undergraduate cannot use them as a resource. Take the following example sentence from a research paper:

"Theory predicts, and some evidence demonstrates that in lakes, the depth of the thermocline can have a large structural influence on the spatial distribution, and strongly influences the composition of plankton communities."

This one sentence could take an entire chapter of an undergraduate limnology textbook to fully explain. However, there are dictionaries, encyclopedias, and, oh yeah, this thing called Google, that can make short work of gleaning its meaning. Terms like "thermocline" and "spatial distribution" and "plankton communities" can all be Googled and within a few minutes the meaning of the sentence will become clear, even to the most uninitiated.

In summary, if one simply accepts that most high-level research papers simply do not stand alone but in general contain terminology that requires additional research to properly understand, they can become very valuable sources of information.

Thomas Hansen's user avatar

  • The grammatically incorrect comma placement doesn't help either. A lot of academic authors tend to over-extend themselves like this. –  Sneftel May 26, 2018 at 19:51

Quite a lot of answers here being quite defensive of writing in papers. While it is true that jargon is not necessarily bad, that papers aren't aimed at undergraduates and some concepts are just difficult to get across, many papers are more difficult to read than is necessary.

There are several things in the culture of science writing that tend to lead to complex sentence structures and difficult to read prose. This becomes worst when students read academic texts and immitate the style in their own writing because they believe that is the way we must write.

The use of the passive voice. This is where the author removes themselves from the text: "The liquid was added to the flask" rather than "We/I added the liquid to the flask". There is no reason for this other than tradition. In my view it almost always makes things harder to read and should be stamped out.

Space requirements in journals. Some journals even have character limits. This leads authors to try and find "clever" ways to try and word things in as few characters as possible.

Use of unneccesarily formal sounding words "utilized" rather than "used" for example.

Ian Sudbery's user avatar

  • After some months, I realized that you may be on to something. As you said, I am imitating previous papers too (I am afraid that otherwise it will not be accepted). And I have noticed that simple sentences are just converted to complicated sentences using advanced vocabulary for no reason. –  Greg Apr 25, 2019 at 18:01

In addition to the good answers above: One additional reason is that the intersection of extraordinary science, literary talent and the will to exercise both is extremely small; the number is probably in the single digits. They all are famous. Russell, Feynman, Hawking, Dawkins come to mind. More?

Peter - Reinstate Monica's user avatar

  • 10 How do you know they are all famous? If there were members of this set who aren't famous, would you know about them? –  Michael Kay May 23, 2018 at 19:35
  • @MichaelKay True, we only know what we know, in case that wasn't obvious. Residual debate may focus on whether the unknowns are known or not; I think in this case they aren't: If writing scientists are not famous they lack one of the three requirements. –  Peter - Reinstate Monica May 24, 2018 at 5:07

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Is writing a research paper hard

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Is writing a research paper hard

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17 August 2021

Is writing a research paper hard

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Writing tools powered by artificial intelligence (AI) have the potential to reduce manuscript preparation time to a few days, or hours. Deep-learning technologies that run chatbots, spellchecks and auto-generated tweets are being used in a growing number of products pitched at students and academics.

Grammarly, for example, claims to “inspect your writing carefully to improve clarity, word choice and more”, offering free and fee-based services.

But are these tools up to the task? In an experiment through education information site EduRef, a group of recent graduates, undergraduates and self-described undergraduate-level writers were given the same assignments as GPT-3, an AI language program developed by OpenAI, a research company co-founded by Elon Musk.

The assignments were evaluated by instructors who did not know who (or what) had written them. GPT-3 performed in line with the humans, according to EduRef, and received “more or less the same feedback”.

The program was praised for writing excellent openings and transitions, but was criticised for using vague, blunt and awkward language, and for failing to craft a strong narrative. It wrote shallow, less descriptive papers than the students, according to EduRef’s write-up on its website, but it took between three and 20 minutes to write a paper, compared to three days for the students.

Hilde van Zeeland is chief applied linguist at start-up company Writefull, which offers AI-based language editing, and is part of London-based Digital Science (see disclosure, below). She says AI tools are already powerful enough to improve a writer’s sentence flow and structure, and will continue to improve.

The company recently analysed more than 250,000 abstracts to identify the most commonly used phrases in each of four different parts of the abstract.

They found, for example, that the words ‘aim of this study’ occurred most frequently in part 1 of the abstract (where study aim and background are described) and the phrase ‘95% confidence interval’ occurred most often in part 4 (which deals with meaning of results, contribution, future research). Users can choose phrases and connecting sentences to use in their own papers.


“With this database of phrases, when a user struggles with the right word to use for each section, our software will be able to provide good alternatives,” says van Zeeland.

The website tells users not to worry about plagiarism, reassuring them that certain phrases won’t be flagged by a plagiarism checker because they are short and commonly used.

Writefull is running a separate experiment that involves feeding an abstract into an AI tool, which generates a paper title based on the input. This function can enhance title readability, draw readership to the abstract and make the article more visible to search engines, according to van Zeeland.

AI tools can do more than check a writer’s grammar and spelling and suggest frequently used phrases, says computer scientist, Guillaume Cabanac, from the University of Toulouse in France.

An analysis of journal-published computer-science papers by Cabanac and his colleagues, posted as a preprint on arXiv in July and yet to be peer-reviewed, found swathes of articles containing tortured phrases and nonsensical text. For example, the phrase ‘colossal information’ was used instead of ‘big data’.

The authors suspect that these papers were the result of using automated translations or software that rewrites existing text to disguise plagiarism, according to a report in Nature .

Their study prompted warnings from research integrity experts that a new type of fabricated paper was entering the scientific literature, which will be hard to spot as AI tools learn to use more sophisticated language.

Considerations for using AI writing tools in academic work

Shu Chian Tay, a science communicator at the National University of Singapore , fears that AI writing tools could exacerbate inequality between labs with different access to resources or openness to trying new technologies.

Shu Chian Tay

Shu Chian Tay

“Consider a hypothetical situation where AI science-writing is possible and two labs have made the same research breakthrough at the same time,” says Tay.

“One lab stuck to human writing, which took weeks, while the other made use of AI writing tools. The latter, who is likely to publish earlier would get most, if not all, of the scientific recognition and lucrative intellectual property rights.”

Will AI replace human writing?

Tay notes that although AI writing tools are quite powerful, they have not yet reached a point where they can write a scientific manuscript from scratch. “We still need researchers to analyse data, present them as figures, and develop a coherent story before feeding all this information to the AI machine,” she says.

Ryan Morrison, professor of English as a second language at George Brown College in Toronto, Canada, says that although the adoption of AI in academic writing is inevitable, it is unlikely to replace human writing in the near future.

Ryan Morrison

Ryan Morrison

“Just as super-computer calculators can process large sets of numbers fast, AI writing tools outperform humans in completing tasks like spell checks and text generation at a much faster rate,” says Morrison. “But the creativity of AI is ultimately limited by the input materials and the discretion of the human curator.”

Software such as Turnitin is also incorporating AI technology to enhance its ability to detect plagiarism. This could potentially be used to identify documents written using AI tools.

Be transparent about using AI writing tools in academic work

Michael Mindzak, assistant professor in the department of educational studies at Brock University in Ontario, Canada, cautions that the academic community has not yet agreed on how to manage potential problems related to AI writing tools, such as plagiarism and authorship credits.

Michael Mindzak

Michael Mindzak

Most institutions are yet to formulate policies on the use of these tools by students and staff. This can be problematic when committee members making decisions on tenure and promotion have different views about the appropriateness of using them, says Mindzak.

“My advice is to be transparent,” says Mindzak. “Declare and add a disclaimer if you have used AI-assisted writing. As more people in the community do this, it may become a norm, just like how the ‘conflict of interest’ section has been added to academic papers in response to a rise in company-funded research and start-ups from academic labs.”

*Digital Science is a subsidiary of Holtzbrinck Publishing Group, which owns 53% of Springer Nature, publisher of the Nature Index. Nature Index is editorially independent of its publisher.

College Info Geek

How to Write a Killer Research Paper (Even If You Hate Writing)

Is writing a research paper hard

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Is writing a research paper hard

Research papers.

Unless you’re a weirdo like me, you probably dread them. When I was in college, depending on the class, I even dreaded these.

It’s the sort of project that can leave even the most organized student quaking in their boots, staring at the assignment like they’re Luke Skywalker and it’s the Death Star.

You have to pick a broad topic, do some in-depth research, hone in on a research question, and then present your answer to that question in an interesting way. Oh, and you have to use citations, too.

How on earth are you supposed to tackle this thing?

Fear not, for even the Death Star had weaknesses. With a well-devised plan, some courage, and maybe a little help from a few midichlorians, you can conquer your research paper, too.

Let’s get started.

1. Pick a Topic

And pick one that interests you. This is not up for debate.

You and this topic are going to be spending a lot of time together, so you might as well pick something you like, or, at the very least, have a vague interest in. Even if you hate the class, there’s probably at least one topic that you’re curious about.

Maybe you want to write about “mental health in high schools” for your paper in your education class. That’s a good start, but take a couple steps to hone your idea a little further so you have an idea of what to research. Here’s a couple of factors to look at when you want to get more specific:

  • Timeframe : What are the most important mental health issues for high schoolers that have come up in the last five years?
  • Location : How does the mental health of students in your area compare to students in the next state (or country) over?
  • Culture or Group : How does the mental health of inner-city students compare to those in the suburbs or places like Silicon Valley?
  • Solution : If schools were to make one change to high schools to improve the well-being of their students, what would be most effective, and why?

It’s good to be clear about what you’re researching, but make sure you don’t box yourself into a corner. Try to avoid being too local (if the area is a small town, for example), or too recent, as there may not be enough research conducted to support an entire paper on the subject.

Also, avoid super analytical or technical topics that you think you’ll have a hard time writing about (unless that’s the assignment…then jump right into all the technicalities you want).

You’ll probably need to do some background research and possibly brainstorm with your professor before you can identify a topic that’s specialized enough for your paper.

At the very least, skim the Encyclopedia Britannica section on your general area of interest. Your professor is another resource: use them! They’re probably more than happy to point you in the direction of a possible research topic.

Of course, this is going to be highly dependent on your class and the criteria set forth by your professor, so make sure you read your assignment and understand what it’s asking for. If you feel the assignment is unclear, don’t go any further without talking to your professor about it.

2. Create a Clear Thesis Statement

Say it with me: a research paper without a thesis question or statement is just a fancy book report.

All research papers fall under three general categories: analytical, expository, or argumentative.

  • Analytical papers present an analysis of information (effects of stress on the human brain)
  • Expository papers seek to explain something (Julius Caesar’s rise to power)
  • Argumentative papers are trying to prove a point (Dumbledore shouldn’t be running a school for children).

So figure out what sort of paper you’d like to write, and then come up with a viable thesis statement or question.

Maybe it starts out looking like this:

  • Julius Caesar’s rise to power was affected by three major factors.

Ok, not bad. You could probably write a paper based on this. But it’s not great , either. It’s not specific, neither is it arguable . You’re not really entering any sort of discussion.

Maybe you rework it a little to be more specific and you get:

  • Julius Caesar’s quick rise to power was a direct result of a power vacuum and social instability created by years of war and internal political corruption.

Better. Now you can actually think about researching it.

Every good thesis statement has three important qualities: it’s focused , it picks a side , and it can be backed up with research .

If you’re missing any of these qualities, you’re gonna have a bad time. Avoid vague modifier words like “positive” and “negative.” Instead use precise, strong language to formulate your argument.

Take this thesis statement for example:

  • “ High schools should stop assigning so much homework, because it has a negative impact on students’ lives.”

Sure, it’s arguable…but only sort of . It’s pretty vague. We don’t really know what is meant by “negative”, other than “generically bad”. Before you get into the research, you have to define your argument a little more.

Revised Version:

  • “ High schools in the United States should assign less homework, as lower workloads improve students’ sleep, stress levels, and, surprisingly, their grades.”

When in doubt, always look at your thesis and ask, “Is this arguable?”  Is there something you need to prove ? If not, then your thesis probably isn’t strong enough. If yes, then as long as you can actually prove it with your research, you’re golden.

Good thesis statements give you a clear goal. You know exactly what you’re looking for, and you know exactly where you’re going with the paper. Try to be as specific and clear as possible. That makes the next step a lot easier:

3. Hit the Books

So you have your thesis, you know what you’re looking for. It’s time to actually go out and do some real research. By real research, I mean more than a quick internet search or a quick skim through some weak secondary or tertiary sources.

If you’ve chosen a thesis you’re a little unsteady on, a preliminary skim through Google is fine, but make sure you go the extra mile. Some professors will even have a list of required resources (e.g. “Three academic articles, two books, one interview…etc).

It’s a good idea to start by heading to the library and asking your local librarian for help (they’re usually so excited to help you find things!).

Check your school library for research papers and books on the topic. Look for primary sources, such as journals, personal records, or contemporary newspaper articles when you can find them.

As you’re starting your research, create some kind of system for filing helpful quotes, links, and other sources. I preferred it to all be on one text document on my computer, but you could try a physical file, too.

In this text document, I start compiling a list of all the sources I’m using. It tends to look like this:

Research file example

Remember that at this point, your thesis isn’t solid. It’s still in a semi-squishy state. If your research starts to strongly contradict your thesis, then come up with a new thesis, revise, and keep on compiling quotes.

The more support you can find, the better. Depending on how long your paper is, you should have 3-10 different sources, with all sorts of quotes between them.

Here are some good places to look for reputable sources:

  • Google Scholar
  • Sites ending in .edu, .org, or .gov. While it’s not a rule, these sites tend to represent organizations, and they are more likely to be reputable than your run-of-the-mill .com sites
  • Your school library. It should have a section for articles and newspapers as well as books
  • Your school’s free academic database
  • Online encyclopedias like Britannica
  • Online almanacs and other databases

As you read, analyze your sources closely, and take good notes . Jot down general observations, questions, and answers to those questions when you find them. Once you have a sizable stack of research notes, it’s time to start organizing your paper.

4. Write an Outline

Even if you normally feel confident writing a paper without one, use an outline when you’re working on a research paper.

Outlines basically do all the heavy lifting for you when it comes to writing. They keep you organized and on track. Even if you feel tempted to just jump in and brain-dump, resist. You’ll thank me later.

Here’s how to structure an outline:

outline example

You’ll notice it’s fairly concise, and it has three major parts: the introduction , the body , and the conclusion . Also notice that I haven’t bothered to organize my research too much.

I’ve just dumped all the relevant citations under the headings I think they’ll end up under, so I can put in my quotes from my research document later as they fit into the overall text.

Let’s get a little more in-depth with this:

The Introduction

The introduction is made up of two main parts: the thesis and the introduction to the supporting points. This is where you essentially tell your reader exactly what sort of wild ride they’re in for if they read on.

It’s all about preparing your reader’s mind to start thinking about your argument or question before you even really get started.

Present your thesis and your supporting points clearly and concisely. It should be no longer than a paragraph or two. Keep it simple and easy to read.

Body Paragraphs

Okay, now that you’ve made your point, it’s time to prove it. This is where your body paragraphs come in. The length of this is entirely dependent on the criteria set by your professor, so keep that in mind.

However, as a rule, you should have at least three supporting points to help defend, prove, or explain your thesis. Put your weakest point first, and your strongest point last.

This doesn’t need a lot of outlining. Basically, take your introduction outline and copy it over. Your conclusion should be about a paragraph long, and it should summarize your main points and restate your thesis.

There’s also another key component to this outline example that I haven’t touched on yet:

Research and Annotations

Some people like to write first, and annotate later. Personally, I like to get my quotes and annotations in right at the start of the writing process.

I find the rest of the paper goes more smoothly, and it’s easier to ensure that I’ve compiled enough support for my claim. That way, I don’t go through all the work of writing the paper, only to discover that my thesis doesn’t actually hold any water!

As a general rule, it’s good to have at least 3-5 sources for every supporting point. Whenever you make a claim in your paper, you should support it with evidence.

Some professors are laxer on this, and some are more stringent. Make sure you understand your assignment requirements really, really, really well. You don’t want to get marked down for missing the correct number of sources!

At this stage, you should also be sure of what sort of format your professor is looking for (APA, MLA, etc.) , as this will save you a lot of headache later.

When I was in college, some professors wanted in-text parenthetical citations whenever I made a claim or used my research at all. Others only wanted citations at the end of a paragraph. And others didn’t mind in-text citations at all, so long as you had a bibliography at the end of your entire paper.

So, go through your outline and start inserting your quotes and citations now. Count them up. If you need more, then add them. If you think you have enough (read: your claims are so supported that even Voldemort himself couldn’t scare them), then move on to the next step:

5. Write the First Draft

Time to type this thing up. If you created a strong enough outline, this should be a breeze. Most of it should already be written for you. All you have to do at this point is fill it in. You’ve successfully avoided the initial blank-screen panic .

Don’t worry too much about grammar or prose quality at this point. It’s the rough draft, and it’s not supposed to see the light of day.

I find it helpful to highlight direct quotes, summaries, paraphrases, and claims as I put them in. This helps me ensure that I never forget to cite any of them.

So, do what you’ve gotta do . Go to a studious place or create one , put on an awesome playlist, close your social media apps, and get the work done.

Once you’ve gotten the gist of your paper down, the real work begins:

6. Revise Your Draft

Okay, now that you’ve word-vomited everywhere in a semi-organized fashion, it’s time to start building this thing into a cohesive paper. If you took the time to outline properly, then this part shouldn’t be too difficult.

Every paper has two editing stages:the developmental edit , and the line edit.

The developmental edit (the first one, at least) is for your eyes only. This is the part where you take a long, hard look at your paper and ask yourself, “Does this make sense, and does it accomplish what I want it to accomplish?” If it does, then great. If it doesn’t, then how can you rearrange or change it so that it does?

Here are a few good questions to ask yourself at this stage:

  • Is the paper well-organized, and does it have a logical flow of thought from paragraph to paragraph?
  • Does your thesis hold up to the three criteria listed earlier? Is it well supported by your research and arguments?
  • Have you checked that all your sources are properly cited?
  • How repetitive is the paper? Can you get rid of superlative points or language to tighten up your argument?

Once you’ve run the paper through this process at least once, it’s time for the line edit . This is the part where you check for punctuation, spelling, and grammar errors.

It helps to let your paper sit overnight, and then read it out loud to yourself, or the cat, or have a friend read it. Often, our brains know what we “meant” to say, and it’s difficult for us to catch small grammatical or spelling errors.

Here are a couple more final questions to ask yourself before you call it a day:

  • Have you avoided filler words , adverbs , and passive voice as much as possible?
  • Have you checked for proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation? Spell-checker software is pretty adept these days, but it still isn’t perfect.

If you need help editing your paper, and your regular software just isn’t cutting it, Grammarly is a good app for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Chrome that goes above and beyond your run-of-the-mill spell-checker. It looks for things like sentence structure and length, as well as accidental plagiarism and passive tense.

7. Organize Your Sources

The paper’s written, but it’s not over. You’ve still got to create the very last page: the “works cited” or bibliography page.

Now, this page works a little differently depending on what style your professor has asked you to use, and it can get pretty confusing, as different types of sources are formatted completely differently.

The most important thing to ensure here is that every single source, whether big or small, is on this page before you turn your paper in. If you forget to cite something, or don’t cite it properly, you run the risk of plagiarism.

I got through college by using a couple of different tools to format it for me. Here are some absolute life-savers:

  • EasyBib – I literally used this tool all throughout college to format my citations for me, it does all the heavy lifting for you, and it’s free .
  • Microsoft Word – I honestly never touched Microsoft Word throughout my college years, but it actually has a tool that will create citations and bibliographies for you, so it’s worth using if you have it on your computer.

Onwards: One Step at a Time

I leave you with this parting advice:

Once you understand the method, research papers really aren’t as difficult as they seem. Sure, there’s a lot to do, but don’t be daunted. Just take it step by step, piece by piece, and give yourself plenty of time. Take frequent breaks, stay organized, and never, ever, ever forget to cite your sources. You can do this!

Looking for tools to make the writing process easier? Check out our list of the best writing apps .

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 113 great research paper topics.

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General Education


One of the hardest parts of writing a research paper can be just finding a good topic to write about. Fortunately we've done the hard work for you and have compiled a list of 113 interesting research paper topics. They've been organized into ten categories and cover a wide range of subjects so you can easily find the best topic for you.

In addition to the list of good research topics, we've included advice on what makes a good research paper topic and how you can use your topic to start writing a great paper.

What Makes a Good Research Paper Topic?

Not all research paper topics are created equal, and you want to make sure you choose a great topic before you start writing. Below are the three most important factors to consider to make sure you choose the best research paper topics.

#1: It's Something You're Interested In

A paper is always easier to write if you're interested in the topic, and you'll be more motivated to do in-depth research and write a paper that really covers the entire subject. Even if a certain research paper topic is getting a lot of buzz right now or other people seem interested in writing about it, don't feel tempted to make it your topic unless you genuinely have some sort of interest in it as well.

#2: There's Enough Information to Write a Paper

Even if you come up with the absolute best research paper topic and you're so excited to write about it, you won't be able to produce a good paper if there isn't enough research about the topic. This can happen for very specific or specialized topics, as well as topics that are too new to have enough research done on them at the moment. Easy research paper topics will always be topics with enough information to write a full-length paper.

Trying to write a research paper on a topic that doesn't have much research on it is incredibly hard, so before you decide on a topic, do a bit of preliminary searching and make sure you'll have all the information you need to write your paper.

#3: It Fits Your Teacher's Guidelines

Don't get so carried away looking at lists of research paper topics that you forget any requirements or restrictions your teacher may have put on research topic ideas. If you're writing a research paper on a health-related topic, deciding to write about the impact of rap on the music scene probably won't be allowed, but there may be some sort of leeway. For example, if you're really interested in current events but your teacher wants you to write a research paper on a history topic, you may be able to choose a topic that fits both categories, like exploring the relationship between the US and North Korea. No matter what, always get your research paper topic approved by your teacher first before you begin writing.

113 Good Research Paper Topics

Below are 113 good research topics to help you get you started on your paper. We've organized them into ten categories to make it easier to find the type of research paper topics you're looking for.



Current Events





How to Write a Great Research Paper

Even great research paper topics won't give you a great research paper if you don't hone your topic before and during the writing process. Follow these three tips to turn good research paper topics into great papers.

#1: Figure Out Your Thesis Early

Before you start writing a single word of your paper, you first need to know what your thesis will be. Your thesis is a statement that explains what you intend to prove/show in your paper. Every sentence in your research paper will relate back to your thesis, so you don't want to start writing without it!

As some examples, if you're writing a research paper on if students learn better in same-sex classrooms, your thesis might be "Research has shown that elementary-age students in same-sex classrooms score higher on standardized tests and report feeling more comfortable in the classroom."

If you're writing a paper on the causes of the Civil War, your thesis might be "While the dispute between the North and South over slavery is the most well-known cause of the Civil War, other key causes include differences in the economies of the North and South, states' rights, and territorial expansion."

#2: Back Every Statement Up With Research

Remember, this is a research paper you're writing, so you'll need to use lots of research to make your points. Every statement you give must be backed up with research, properly cited the way your teacher requested. You're allowed to include opinions of your own, but they must also be supported by the research you give.

#3: Do Your Research Before You Begin Writing

You don't want to start writing your research paper and then learn that there isn't enough research to back up the points you're making, or, even worse, that the research contradicts the points you're trying to make!

Get most of your research on your good research topics done before you begin writing. Then use the research you've collected to create a rough outline of what your paper will cover and the key points you're going to make. This will help keep your paper clear and organized, and it'll ensure you have enough research to produce a strong paper.

What's Next?

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Want to know the fastest and easiest ways to convert between Fahrenheit and Celsius? We've got you covered! Check out our guide to the best ways to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit (or vice versa).

Need more help with this topic? Check out Tutorbase!

Our vetted tutor database includes a range of experienced educators who can help you polish an essay for English or explain how derivatives work for Calculus. You can use dozens of filters and search criteria to find the perfect person for your needs.

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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.

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Writing Limitations of Research Study — 4 Reasons Why It Is Important!

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It is not unusual for researchers to come across the term limitations of research during their academic paper writing. More often this is interpreted as something terrible. However, when it comes to research study, limitations can help structure the research study better. Therefore, do not underestimate significance of limitations of research study.

Allow us to take you through the context of how to evaluate the limits of your research and conclude an impactful relevance to your results.

Table of Contents

What Are the Limitations of a Research Study?

Every research has its limit and these limitations arise due to restrictions in methodology or research design.  This could impact your entire research or the research paper you wish to publish. Unfortunately, most researchers choose not to discuss their limitations of research fearing it will affect the value of their article in the eyes of readers.

However, it is very important to discuss your study limitations and show it to your target audience (other researchers, journal editors, peer reviewers etc.). It is very important that you provide an explanation of how your research limitations may affect the conclusions and opinions drawn from your research. Moreover, when as an author you state the limitations of research, it shows that you have investigated all the weaknesses of your study and have a deep understanding of the subject. Being honest could impress your readers and mark your study as a sincere effort in research.

peer review

Why and Where Should You Include the Research Limitations?

The main goal of your research is to address your research objectives. Conduct experiments, get results and explain those results, and finally justify your research question . It is best to mention the limitations of research in the discussion paragraph of your research article.

At the very beginning of this paragraph, immediately after highlighting the strengths of the research methodology, you should write down your limitations. You can discuss specific points from your research limitations as suggestions for further research in the conclusion of your thesis.

1. Common Limitations of the Researchers

Limitations that are related to the researcher must be mentioned. This will help you gain transparency with your readers. Furthermore, you could provide suggestions on decreasing these limitations in you and your future studies.

2. Limited Access to Information

Your work may involve some institutions and individuals in research, and sometimes you may have problems accessing these institutions. Therefore, you need to redesign and rewrite your work. You must explain your readers the reason for limited access.

3. Limited Time

All researchers are bound by their deadlines when it comes to completing their studies. Sometimes, time constraints can affect your research negatively. However, the best practice is to acknowledge it and mention a requirement for future study to solve the research problem in a better way.

4. Conflict over Biased Views and Personal Issues

Biased views can affect the research. In fact, researchers end up choosing only those results and data that support their main argument, keeping aside the other loose ends of the research.

Types of Limitations of Research

Before beginning your research study, know that there are certain limitations to what you are testing or possible research results. There are different types that researchers may encounter, and they all have unique characteristics, such as:

1. Research Design Limitations

Certain restrictions on your research or available procedures may affect your final results or research outputs. You may have formulated research goals and objectives too broadly. However, this can help you understand how you can narrow down the formulation of research goals and objectives, thereby increasing the focus of your study.

2. Impact Limitations

Even if your research has excellent statistics and a strong design, it can suffer from the influence of the following factors:

3. Data or statistical limitations

In some cases, it is impossible to collect sufficient data for research or very difficult to get access to the data. This could lead to incomplete conclusion to your study. Moreover, this insufficiency in data could be the outcome of your study design. The unclear, shabby research outline could produce more problems in interpreting your findings.

How to Correctly Structure Your Research Limitations?

There are strict guidelines for narrowing down research questions, wherein you could justify and explain potential weaknesses of your academic paper. You could go through these basic steps to get a well-structured clarity of research limitations:

In this section, your readers will see that you are aware of the potential weaknesses in your business, understand them and offer effective solutions, and it will positively strengthen your article as you clarify all limitations of research to your target audience.

Know that you cannot be perfect and there is no individual without flaws. You could use the limitations of research as a great opportunity to take on a new challenge and improve the future of research. In a typical academic paper, research limitations may relate to:

1. Formulating your goals and objectives

If you formulate goals and objectives too broadly, your work will have some shortcomings. In this case, specify effective methods or ways to narrow down the formula of goals and aim to increase your level of study focus.

2. Application of your data collection methods in research

If you do not have experience in primary data collection, there is a risk that there will be flaws in the implementation of your methods. It is necessary to accept this, and learn and educate yourself to understand data collection methods.

3. Sample sizes

This depends on the nature of problem you choose. Sample size is of a greater importance in quantitative studies as opposed to qualitative ones. If your sample size is too small, statistical tests cannot identify significant relationships or connections within a given data set.

You could point out that other researchers should base the same study on a larger sample size to get more accurate results.

4. The absence of previous studies in the field you have chosen

Writing a literature review is an important step in any scientific study because it helps researchers determine the scope of current work in the chosen field. It is a major foundation for any researcher who must use them to achieve a set of specific goals or objectives.

However, if you are focused on the most current and evolving research problem or a very narrow research problem, there may be very little prior research on your topic. For example, if you chose to explore the role of Bitcoin as the currency of the future, you may not find tons of scientific papers addressing the research problem as Bitcoins are only a new phenomenon.

It is important that you learn to identify research limitations examples at each step. Whatever field you choose, feel free to add the shortcoming of your work. This is mainly because you do not have many years of experience writing scientific papers or completing complex work. Therefore, the depth and scope of your discussions may be compromised at different levels compared to academics with a lot of expertise. Include specific points from limitations of research. Use them as suggestions for the future.

Have you ever faced a challenge of writing the limitations of research study in your paper? How did you overcome it? What ways did you follow? Were they beneficial? Let us know in the comments below!

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6 Best Research Paper Writing Services in the U.S.

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SEATTLE, March 26, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Stressays conducted a research study among 23,584 college students in the U.S. and prepared a list of the six most popular research paper writing services used by American students.

The study also revealed why students use such services in the first place. The most common reasons were: heavy workload, too much academic pressure and low grades. A lot of students felt pressured because of the sudden shift to remote learning and lack of hands-on guidance. Therefore, for many students, hiring a professional research paper writer online becomes the only solution.

Below you will find six research paper writing service reviews. These companies are ranked from first to last based on their popularity and overall number of positive reviews.

1.  PaperHelp – The Most Popular Service

PaperHelp has been around for almost ten years, and it’s one of the most popular and trusted research paper writing services currently available. Most customers note that this service provides high-quality papers on time. Besides, it offers affordable prices.

PaperHelp gets tons of positive feedback from customers online. Although there are also some unsatisfied customers, the customer support service replies to all of them and does its best to resolve any issues.

Reasons why students choose PaperHelp:

The company offers a money-back guarantee and free revisions. You can get a refund if PaperHelp doesn’t find a writer for your assignment, if you receive your paper too late, or if it turns out to be plagiarized. The ordering process is straightforward and simple: you should fill out an online form, providing the type of your paper, its format, deadline, and other details. After this, you can use a price calculator to evaluate your expenses. The price calculator is also available on the home page.

The price for a high school research paper with a two-week deadline starts at $12 per page. A page of a Ph.D. dissertation with the same deadline will cost you $24.

2.  ExpertWriting – The Cheapest Service

ExpertWriting is one of the best writing services with some interesting features. For instance, it doesn’t have its own team of writers. Instead, this company collaborates with freelancers. As a result, EssayOneDay offers very low prices. Although not all writers are native English speakers, you can request an ENL writer when making an order. The quality of writing is decent, and this company also has a good customer support team.

Reasons Why Students Choose ExpertWriting:

The money-back policy is somewhat sketchy but many customers report getting a 100% refund when they were unsatisfied with their papers. The ordering process consists of three steps. First, you should provide the necessary details about your assignment, then you can select additional services, and then you must pay for your order to confirm it.

A high-school research paper with a two-week deadline will only cost you $7.50 per page, and a Ph.D. dissertation with the same deadline will cost you $35 per page.

3.  EssayPro – Best Choice of Writers

EssayPro is different from many other writing services because it enables customers to choose writers who will work on their orders. There are many professional writers who deliver well-written papers on different topics. Many customers note that this service is a good choice for difficult assignments so it can be a good option if you’re looking for a term paper or dissertation. Besides, it has affordable prices.

Reasons Why Students Choose EssayPro:

A great thing about this service is that you can pay for your order after you actually receive the paper. However, you should make sure that you have some money in your account before making an order. To buy a paper, you should sign up and fill out an online form, providing the details of your assignment. After this, you’ll start receiving applications from writers so you can talk to them and choose the one who meets your requirements.

The prices are low. A high-school essay or a research paper delivered in two weeks will cost you $10.80 per page, and the price for a doctoral dissertation starts at $15.60 per page.

4.  JustDoMyEssay – Best in Quality

JustDoMyEssay is another writing service that focuses on academic papers. This service appeared not so long ago so it doesn’t have a whole army of fans yet, but it does have something to offer. Its modern design and a simple website will help you quickly figure out what to do even if you’re going to order a paper online for the first time. This service has an active support team and provides decent papers with respect to deadlines. In addition, it offers a number of extra services, including progressive delivery, for free.

Reasons Why Students Choose JustDoMyEssay:

A great thing about this service is its money-back guarantee. Not all writing services can offer a 100% refund if you get your paper too late. You can even get a 30% refund if you find any grammar and spelling mistakes. Perhaps, the main drawback of this platform is that you cannot calculate the price of your paper before making an order.

This service isn’t cheap, but neither is it too expensive. The pricing policy is somewhat unclear given the absence of a price calculator, but generally, the price for custom writing starts at $17.55 per page.

5.  SpeedyPaper – Best Value for Money

This is a reliable paper writing service with a great online reputation that offers academic help with writing, editing, and problem-solving tasks. This company has many professional writers, and you can evaluate their writing skills by reading sample papers available on the website.

The website also has a lot of information for those who have never used research paper services before. The best thing about SpeedyPaper is its support team. Just as the name of this company suggests, support representatives reply very quickly, and they are always ready to help you with any issues.

Reasons Why Students Choose SpeedyPaper:

Unlike many other writing services, SpeedyPaper manages to deliver high-quality papers regardless of how tight the deadlines are. If you need your paper to be written quickly, SpeedyPaper is a great solution. You can choose regular or PRO/TOP writers, but in both cases, the quality will be good. The company also offers three free revisions, but some customers note that they also got additional revisions for free, as well.

A high-school essay with a 20-day deadline will only cost you $9 per page. If you need it in two weeks, you can buy it for $11 per page, and a Ph.D. dissertation with the same deadline will cost you from $23 per page.

6.  GradeMiners – The Fastest Writing Service

GradeMiners is a legit research paper writing service where you can order not only essays of all kinds but also many other assignments. Here you can get help with math tasks and buy custom lab reports. Papers are delivered on time, and the quality of writing is acceptable. Although not all reviews from customers are good, most of them seem to enjoy this service.

The best thing about GradeMiners is that you can come here even if your deadlines are extremely tight. Here you can order your paper even if you need it to be done in three hours.

Reasons Why Students Choose GradeMiners:

If you’re not satisfied with your writer’s work, you can request a refund within 14 days and provide evidence to support your claim that the quality is low. For instance, you can submit a plagiarism report.

A high school essay with a 14-day deadline will cost you $15.09 per page. The price for a Ph.D. dissertation starts at $27.08 per page.

10 FAQs About Research Paper Services

Research paper writing services are extremely popular among students. Although educators keep criticizing such companies and accuse students of cheating, they don’t solve the problem. The main reason why students use such services is that they don’t have enough time to deal with countless writing assignments.

However, not all companies are actually reliable. All of them may promise great papers written by professional writers, but not all companies keep their promises. Some sites hire unprofessional ESL writers, and some companies sell unoriginal papers or even resell them to multiple clients. Here are the most popular questions that students ask, answered.

Will I Get Caught If I Buy an Essay or a Research Paper Online?

It’s impossible to catch you buying an essay if you are using legitimate research paper writing services. Companies that are popular on the web care about their reputation and never provide students with the same works, so you can be sure that your essay will not be plagiarized. They also don’t publish papers on the Internet or pass them to third parties, even upon request. Hence, there is no way to see your assignment somewhere else on the web. Despite the fact that essay agencies keep written works, nobody has access to them except for writers, so you can be sure that your paper is safe. 

However, if you use unreliable services with poor reviews, there is no 100% guarantee that you will get an original writing assignment. Therefore, you should always check if anybody had any negative experience with a particular company and place an order only when you are absolutely confident about  its service quality. 

Are Research Paper Services Worth It?

Most research paper writing companies provide high-quality services but their rates may vary dramatically, so it’s difficult to say exactly whether a particular essay platform is worth using. To answer this question, one should take into account the price for a paper and analyze if it corresponds to the quality. It’s important to note that a higher rate doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get a better product. Unfortunately, in some cases, a high price doesn’t indicate good quality. 

Another way to find out if an academic paper writing service is worth using is to ask yourself why you need it. If you realize that it can save you a lot of time that can be spent on exam preparation or a term project, then you probably should try it. Sometimes, students ask for research paper writing help because they prefer to make a career instead of studying various theories, which is also a legitimate reason to use an essay service.

What Is the Best Research Paper Writing Service in the USA?

Taking into account numerous reviews from people studying in the United States, the top-rated research paper writing services are: PaperHelp , EssayPro and GradeMiners . If you are wondering how to identify if an assignment company is really the best in its niche, here is the answer: pay attention to the main factors of its success.

First of all, check if an agency delivers papers on time. Secondly, check their quality by asking someone for an independent review. Then, have a look at rates and compare them with those of other companies to make sure that they are not too high. If writers provide original works that completely meet the given requirements, then you shouldn't doubt about using their services. 

Generally, when it comes to defining service quality, this might be quite subjective. But if one relies on objective assessment factors, such as those mentioned above, then it becomes possible to tell which research paper writing service is the best.

Are Paper Writing Services Legal?

All essay and research paper writing services that are registered as business companies are legal. In other words, if they are officially acknowledged by the government and work in accordance with existing regulations, they are legal. As with any type of business, assignment writing agencies have to stick to the laws set on the national level. If they don't break any federal rules, then there is no reason to worry about it.

Research paper writing companies serve for educational purposes. Their main aim is to help students in their learning process and improve their writing skills. Professional writers guide clients to enhance their academic performance, so this kind of business is considered legitimate. Summing up, if you turn to an assignment agency for help, this doesn't mean that you break the law or contribute to illegal business. 

Can Turnitin Detect Essays and Research Papers Bought Online?

It's impossible to detect essays bought online with the help of Turnitin if they are not plagiarized. Turnitin checks whether the content is original and not published elsewhere. Hence, if your essay wasn't posted on the web, it cannot be defined as purchased from someone. 

As a rule, all credible research paper writing websites create papers from scratch. Professional writers don't use someone else's thoughts but offer their own ideas. Their wording is also unique and cannot be similar to someone's writing style. Therefore, clients always get essays that are not alike to those on the web. 

This means that any plagiarism checker including Turnitin can't find similarities with writing assignments available on the Internet. The clients of research paper writing services shouldn't be afraid that their work will be detected as bought online with the help of such tools as Turnitin.

Can I Pay Someone to Write a Research Paper? Is It Legal?

If you want to pay someone to write a custom research paper for you according to the given requirements instead of writing it on your own, you should select a credible writing company. You should choose essay services very carefully to make sure that you are going to pick the most reliable one. Hiring a professional writer from an assignment company is probably the best solution if you want to get a paper of top quality. Such companies always guarantee confidentiality, original works and a full refund in case something goes wrong. Your customer rights are protected when you are using the services of a popular company. 

On the contrary, if you decide to work with freelance writers, there is no guarantee that you'll get what you need. Their performance is not regulated by any external rules, so they may let you down and deliver a paper of poor quality.

How to Find Genuine Research Paper Writing Service Reviews?

The most important thing about finding genuine reviews is not to rely on one source. If you are reading reviews only on one platform, chances are they will not be objective. You should check multiple websites and read different opinions to get an idea of what a particular service is. Choose a platform on which you can compare different reviews and then analyze them carefully. Pay special attention to negative comments so you can know about the weak points of a certain company. But still don't be discouraged by negative feedback as it's impossible for companies to meet the needs of all clients and make everybody satisfied. 

Note that one-sided opinion cannot be true. If an agency doesn't have negative reviews on the web, then something is wrong with it. This might be a warning sign for you not to use their services.

Are Research Paper Writing Services Safe?

Using credible research paper writing services is absolutely safe for everybody. First of all, they have professional writers that work in accordance with a policy. Secondly, your customer rights are protected by the contract regulations, so can feel confident about the quality of work you will get. Also, most essay companies offer 100% refund if they don't meet your requirements, so you shouldn't worry about wasting your finances. If you prove that there is something wrong with your order, you will get your money back. Furthermore, it's impossible to get caught on buying assignments because all the personal information you provide to writers is confidential, which means that they cannot pass it to third parties.

Is writing a research paper hard

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Benefits of Writing a Quality Research Paper

Benefits of Writing a Quality Research Paper

Contributed by ACHS alumni Melissa Abbott, MS, CPT, NC

Why It’s Important?

You have just been informed that you’re going to write a research paper and you have no idea how you are going to start the writing process. You may even doubt that you can take on such a challenge. I’m here today to say YES you absolutely can do this! The following writing tips and support strategies offered below are important incentives and motivations involved in the writing process, for your career, and future goals. The writing process involves your body, mind, and spirit. It is all included because you put all your energy and immerse your whole being into it.

Here’s the exciting part, can you imagine having your paper being read by several hundred maybe even thousands of other academic professionals, researchers, and scientists from around the world? It is one of the most incredible feelings to achieve a status of recognition from your hard work in research and the passion(s) you have in holistic health from your peers. Scientists, doctors, holistic professionals in every domain, researchers, collaborators looking for you, your knowledge, and expertise. Sound too good to be true, nope, it happened to me and I hope that it can happen for you too!

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The significant impact and support that I received in my first class at ACHS, RES501 : Assessment and Integration of Research Online, with Professor Dr. Nicole Betschman , was empowering. Dr. Betschman armed and mentored us with the best skills and writing techniques, coping strategies for our anxiety and doubts, and outlines to produce quality research and writing. However, she said one thing that stuck out in my mind throughout my studies at ACHS, register with an online platform where you can post your papers for others to read and get yourself noticed in your chosen field of interest. I did just that and since posting my very first paper to ResearchGate (researchgate.com), it has garnered over 1,000+ reads from others in my area of concentration who have emailed me to ask me questions, inquire about my future projects, and offers of potential future collaborations.

Listed below are just a few of the many benefits to writing a quality research paper:

Woman typing on computer with notebook next to her

How to start the writing process?

You may be asking yourself … where do I begin, how do I pick a topic, what do I research? Let me help by offering a few strategies or “tools” for your writing “toolbox” to get you in the headspace to explore these brainstorming questions.

1. Sit comfortably with a notebook, make a cup of tea, turn on a diffuser with a blend that promotes increased focus and cognitive awareness, put on some background music, create a space for exploration with little to no distraction, and remember to take several deep breaths during your research sessions. We tend to hold our breath when we’re deep in the research and writing process. This always helps refocus the brainstorming process as well as reduce your stress and anxiety accumulating in your body, mind, and spirit. I do understand these feelings and they can distract you from your best intentions.

Is writing a research paper hard

2. I highly recommend that you pick a topic and formulate your hypothesis on something you already know well, or an area of interest that supports your future career goals, or on a health condition a friend, family, or that you are challenged with; this is a great place to start. My first paper that received all the recognition came from years of personal experience which made the writing process so much easier. This takes so much of the anxiety away from picking a topic at random. If you are invested in the subject you will want to produce a quality paper with integrity that resulted from years of your experiences and knowledge. You are worth it!

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3. Time management is key to staying on task and your module assignments in class. I recommend blocking out two-hour intervals on your research then take a break, walk away, go outside, stretch, go for a walk, get a snack. This also permits you to do other things without getting anxious that you haven’t finished other tasks or responsibilities. These intermissions create more space to return with fresh eyes, mindset, and less tension in your body from sitting. Or even better yet, use a standing desk!

4. Creating a few folders; one on your desktop and one in your bookmarks, where you will collect and manage the content for each component of your research paper helps with the organization of each of the sections involved in a scholarly research paper. Then you can add multiple subfolders for each part of the paper. For example, I had a folder entitled, RES501 Thesis, then subfolders entitled Introduction, Methods, Discussion, Results, and Conclusions. I had one folder titled Notes so that I could cut and paste notes from the highlights taken from research articles and journals that help me to formulate my findings, data interpretations, and key points. One last thing that helped was keeping a file titled Books/Citations so they are all in one place and you don’t have to go looking for them afterward. Another way to decrease your anxiety and stress!

5. I also recommend creating two bookmarks to collect all the supportive websites, journals, and resource materials so you don’t have to look for them each time you need them. For example, I had one bookmark entitled, Research Platforms, where I had links to PubMed, Elsevier, Google Scholar, LIRN, Oxford, and BMC. Then I had a second one entitled, Writing Tools, where I had American Psychological Association (APA) publication manual, Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL), and citation checkers such as Citation Machine and Cite This For Me.

Shelf of library books

Keep all your supportive tools at your fingertips. Use highlights of different colors to capture the key points within the articles and journals you collect so you are less likely to forget where you read specific data to support your hypothesis. More importantly, it is my hope these tools and tips from personal experiences help support you on your writing adventure and the journey your academic career takes you. It is a very exciting time and it brings great opportunities for success, increased confidence, and empowers you to continue working hard at what you love.

When you find yourself in a writing slump, feel your anxiety increasing or you’re just having a bad day, it is okay to ask for help and support from your fellow peers, your professors, your home support team, they all want you to succeed. I want you to succeed and if you would like to discuss some strategies or need help from a fellow researcher please don’t hesitate to reach out and email me. I would be thrilled to help you produce the best paper you can while being true to yourself and your vision. Be well and happy writing!

Melissa Abbott

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References: [1] American Psychological Association (APA), (2021). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). Retrieved from https:// apastyle.apa.org/products/publication-manual-7th-edition [2] Citation Machine® – write smarter. (n.d.). Retrieved April 02, 2021, from https://www.citationmachine.net/ [3] Save time and improve your marks With CITETHISFORME, the No. 1 citation tool. (n.d.). Retrieved April 02, 2021, from https://www.citethisforme.com/ [4] Purdue Writing Lab. (n.d.). Purdue owl // Purdue Writing lab. Retrieved April 02, 2021, from https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/purdue_owl.html

Is writing a research paper hard

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11.1 The Purpose of Research Writing

Learning objectives.

  • Identify reasons to research writing projects.
  • Outline the steps of the research writing process.

Why was the Great Wall of China built? What have scientists learned about the possibility of life on Mars? What roles did women play in the American Revolution? How does the human brain create, store, and retrieve memories? Who invented the game of football, and how has it changed over the years?

You may know the answers to these questions off the top of your head. If you are like most people, however, you find answers to tough questions like these by searching the Internet, visiting the library, or asking others for information. To put it simply, you perform research.

Whether you are a scientist, an artist, a paralegal, or a parent, you probably perform research in your everyday life. When your boss, your instructor, or a family member asks you a question that you do not know the answer to, you locate relevant information, analyze your findings, and share your results. Locating, analyzing, and sharing information are key steps in the research process, and in this chapter, you will learn more about each step. By developing your research writing skills, you will prepare yourself to answer any question no matter how challenging.

Reasons for Research

When you perform research, you are essentially trying to solve a mystery—you want to know how something works or why something happened. In other words, you want to answer a question that you (and other people) have about the world. This is one of the most basic reasons for performing research.

But the research process does not end when you have solved your mystery. Imagine what would happen if a detective collected enough evidence to solve a criminal case, but she never shared her solution with the authorities. Presenting what you have learned from research can be just as important as performing the research. Research results can be presented in a variety of ways, but one of the most popular—and effective—presentation forms is the research paper . A research paper presents an original thesis, or purpose statement, about a topic and develops that thesis with information gathered from a variety of sources.

If you are curious about the possibility of life on Mars, for example, you might choose to research the topic. What will you do, though, when your research is complete? You will need a way to put your thoughts together in a logical, coherent manner. You may want to use the facts you have learned to create a narrative or to support an argument. And you may want to show the results of your research to your friends, your teachers, or even the editors of magazines and journals. Writing a research paper is an ideal way to organize thoughts, craft narratives or make arguments based on research, and share your newfound knowledge with the world.

Write a paragraph about a time when you used research in your everyday life. Did you look for the cheapest way to travel from Houston to Denver? Did you search for a way to remove gum from the bottom of your shoe? In your paragraph, explain what you wanted to research, how you performed the research, and what you learned as a result.

Research Writing and the Academic Paper

No matter what field of study you are interested in, you will most likely be asked to write a research paper during your academic career. For example, a student in an art history course might write a research paper about an artist’s work. Similarly, a student in a psychology course might write a research paper about current findings in childhood development.

Having to write a research paper may feel intimidating at first. After all, researching and writing a long paper requires a lot of time, effort, and organization. However, writing a research paper can also be a great opportunity to explore a topic that is particularly interesting to you. The research process allows you to gain expertise on a topic of your choice, and the writing process helps you remember what you have learned and understand it on a deeper level.

Research Writing at Work

Knowing how to write a good research paper is a valuable skill that will serve you well throughout your career. Whether you are developing a new product, studying the best way to perform a procedure, or learning about challenges and opportunities in your field of employment, you will use research techniques to guide your exploration. You may even need to create a written report of your findings. And because effective communication is essential to any company, employers seek to hire people who can write clearly and professionally.

Writing at Work

Take a few minutes to think about each of the following careers. How might each of these professionals use researching and research writing skills on the job?

  • Medical laboratory technician
  • Small business owner
  • Information technology professional
  • Freelance magazine writer

A medical laboratory technician or information technology professional might do research to learn about the latest technological developments in either of these fields. A small business owner might conduct research to learn about the latest trends in his or her industry. A freelance magazine writer may need to research a given topic to write an informed, up-to-date article.

Think about the job of your dreams. How might you use research writing skills to perform that job? Create a list of ways in which strong researching, organizing, writing, and critical thinking skills could help you succeed at your dream job. How might these skills help you obtain that job?

Steps of the Research Writing Process

How does a research paper grow from a folder of brainstormed notes to a polished final draft? No two projects are identical, but most projects follow a series of six basic steps.

These are the steps in the research writing process:

  • Choose a topic.
  • Plan and schedule time to research and write.
  • Conduct research.
  • Organize research and ideas.
  • Draft your paper.
  • Revise and edit your paper.

Each of these steps will be discussed in more detail later in this chapter. For now, though, we will take a brief look at what each step involves.

Step 1: Choosing a Topic

As you may recall from Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” , to narrow the focus of your topic, you may try freewriting exercises, such as brainstorming. You may also need to ask a specific research question —a broad, open-ended question that will guide your research—as well as propose a possible answer, or a working thesis . You may use your research question and your working thesis to create a research proposal . In a research proposal, you present your main research question, any related subquestions you plan to explore, and your working thesis.

Step 2: Planning and Scheduling

Before you start researching your topic, take time to plan your researching and writing schedule. Research projects can take days, weeks, or even months to complete. Creating a schedule is a good way to ensure that you do not end up being overwhelmed by all the work you have to do as the deadline approaches.

During this step of the process, it is also a good idea to plan the resources and organizational tools you will use to keep yourself on track throughout the project. Flowcharts, calendars, and checklists can all help you stick to your schedule. See Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” , Section 11.2 “Steps in Developing a Research Proposal” for an example of a research schedule.

Step 3: Conducting Research

When going about your research, you will likely use a variety of sources—anything from books and periodicals to video presentations and in-person interviews.

Your sources will include both primary sources and secondary sources . Primary sources provide firsthand information or raw data. For example, surveys, in-person interviews, and historical documents are primary sources. Secondary sources, such as biographies, literary reviews, or magazine articles, include some analysis or interpretation of the information presented. As you conduct research, you will take detailed, careful notes about your discoveries. You will also evaluate the reliability of each source you find.

Step 4: Organizing Research and the Writer’s Ideas

When your research is complete, you will organize your findings and decide which sources to cite in your paper. You will also have an opportunity to evaluate the evidence you have collected and determine whether it supports your thesis, or the focus of your paper. You may decide to adjust your thesis or conduct additional research to ensure that your thesis is well supported.

Remember, your working thesis is not set in stone. You can and should change your working thesis throughout the research writing process if the evidence you find does not support your original thesis. Never try to force evidence to fit your argument. For example, your working thesis is “Mars cannot support life-forms.” Yet, a week into researching your topic, you find an article in the New York Times detailing new findings of bacteria under the Martian surface. Instead of trying to argue that bacteria are not life forms, you might instead alter your thesis to “Mars cannot support complex life-forms.”

Step 5: Drafting Your Paper

Now you are ready to combine your research findings with your critical analysis of the results in a rough draft. You will incorporate source materials into your paper and discuss each source thoughtfully in relation to your thesis or purpose statement.

When you cite your reference sources, it is important to pay close attention to standard conventions for citing sources in order to avoid plagiarism , or the practice of using someone else’s words without acknowledging the source. Later in this chapter, you will learn how to incorporate sources in your paper and avoid some of the most common pitfalls of attributing information.

Step 6: Revising and Editing Your Paper

In the final step of the research writing process, you will revise and polish your paper. You might reorganize your paper’s structure or revise for unity and cohesion, ensuring that each element in your paper flows into the next logically and naturally. You will also make sure that your paper uses an appropriate and consistent tone.

Once you feel confident in the strength of your writing, you will edit your paper for proper spelling, grammar, punctuation, mechanics, and formatting. When you complete this final step, you will have transformed a simple idea or question into a thoroughly researched and well-written paper you can be proud of!

Review the steps of the research writing process. Then answer the questions on your own sheet of paper.

  • In which steps of the research writing process are you allowed to change your thesis?
  • In step 2, which types of information should you include in your project schedule?
  • What might happen if you eliminated step 4 from the research writing process?

Key Takeaways

  • People undertake research projects throughout their academic and professional careers in order to answer specific questions, share their findings with others, increase their understanding of challenging topics, and strengthen their researching, writing, and analytical skills.
  • The research writing process generally comprises six steps: choosing a topic, scheduling and planning time for research and writing, conducting research, organizing research and ideas, drafting a paper, and revising and editing the paper.

Writing for Success by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

How I Use Zotero to Organize My Research

Is writing a research paper hard

How I use Zotero to Organize My Research

By Marcy, a Writing Coach

When I started graduate school, one of the most common pieces of advice I received was to pick a citation management software and stick to it.

It took me four years before I finally followed this advice.

The truth is, I had tried to use Zotero before, but frankly, I didn’t understand the hype. Now, I’ve been using Zotero for a year and a half, and I wish I had started sooner. What made me do such a big 180 on using Zotero? Mostly, discovering that it does so much more than just generate citations . Specifically, there are three main features in Zotero that turned me into a convert: its ability to store all of my research in a singular location, its tagging feature, and its notetaking and integrated PDF software.

Storing my research in a central repository

Before I started using Zotero, whenever I downloaded a new text, I had to create a new folder, download the relevant PDF, and move the PDF to the correct folder. It also created issues when I used a text for different topics. For example, if I originally read a text for my English 666 class, I would store it in my English 666 folder. Afterwards, if I wanted to use it again, I’d have to remember where I’d originally read the text or move it to the appropriate place.

Is writing a research paper hard

With Zotero, my system is a lot more streamlined. Today, I started working on the section of my dissertation introduction that discusses archives in Latin America. After searching through the UNC libraries, I found a source that looked useful to me, so I used my Firefox Zotero Plugin to download the article I needed directly to Zotero.

Is writing a research paper hard

Within Firefox, I can choose which of my Zotero folders I want to save to. Since this article is for my introduction, I selected the “Introduction” option from the dropdown bar.

My newly-downloaded article now appears automatically in my Zotero desktop app, and it also includes all of the bibliographic information I need.

Is writing a research paper hard

But what happens if I decide to cite the same article later in my fourth dissertation chapter? The good news is, it’s easy to reuse a source and still stay organized.

I haven’t created a folder for my fourth dissertation chapter, so I’ll start there by clicking the “Add collection” button in the top left-hand corner and giving the collection the name “Chapter 4 research.”

Is writing a research paper hard

Now that I have my new folder, I can either drag and drop my article into my newly-made “Chapter 4 Research” folder, or I can right-click the source, click “Add to Collection,” and then select “Chapter 4 Research.”

Is writing a research paper hard

Now, this source appears in both folders (with the PDF), so I can easily access the same source from two different locations.

Now that I have all of my sources in the same place, I use Zotero to help me wade through my research. I’m currently writing the introduction to my dissertation, and I already have over 50 sources in Zotero!

Is writing a research paper hard

To help me stay organized, I like to give each source I download a tag that tells me what subsection of my research it relates to. For example, I know that one of the major sections of my dissertation introduction is about archives, so I tag all of those sources as “archive.”

To create a tag, I click on my source and then click the “tags” tab in the right-hand side of the page. Then, I click “add” and I write whatever word or phrase I want–in this case, archive.

Is writing a research paper hard

Once I tag my articles, I can easily filter my sources by typing in the tag in the bottom-left corner and selecting the relevant term. Now, instead of having to wade through 50+ sources, I have around 10 sources.

Is writing a research paper hard

I also use tags to help me remember which articles I need to include in my Works Cited. While I’ve downloaded every article that might be of interest to me, I won’t end up using all of them in my Introduction. So, whenever I use a source for the first time in my writing, I go back to Zotero and add the tag “include in works cited.” I’ll even use tags to help me filter through which articles I’ve already read and which articles I still need to read!


Once I’ve tagged my sources, I’m ready to start reading and taking notes on my source. To read my source, all I need to do is double click on the source and the PDF appears in a new window in Zotero.

Is writing a research paper hard

Within Zotero’s PDF editor, I take notes by highlighting and adding sticky notes in the PDF. To highlight or add a sticky note, I just use the bar at the top of the PDF.

Is writing a research paper hard

While I can take notes within the PDF by adding a sticky note, I can also add notes that appear in the main window. When writing my Introduction, I’ve mostly relied on my PDF annotations and I haven’t taken as many notes. However, for my second chapter, I used the notes feature extensively, typically writing brief summaries and to record my reaction to a source.

Is writing a research paper hard

What I like about keeping notes this way is that it shows up in the main interface of Zotero. So I can quickly click on different sources to read my notes and jog my memory. This comes in handy when I’m writing and I remember an argument that I’ve read, but I can’t remember which source made the argument. Rather than opening 50 PDFs manually, I use the tags to narrow my search down to a subset of articles. Once I’ve narrowed it down, I can quickly browse through my notes without ever having to leave Zotero’s main screen.

Zotero has been a lifesaver by helping me work more efficiently and strategically. Now, all that’s left for me to do is actually write my introduction…

  • Give this article


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Here’s What Happens When Your Lawyer Uses ChatGPT

A lawyer representing a man who sued an airline relied on artificial intelligence to help prepare a court filing. It did not go well.

An Avianca plane in flight, with its landing gear down and cirrostratus clouds in the background.

By Benjamin Weiser

The lawsuit began like so many others: A man named Roberto Mata sued the airline Avianca, saying he was injured when a metal serving cart struck his knee during a flight to Kennedy International Airport in New York.

When Avianca asked a Manhattan federal judge to toss out the case, Mr. Mata’s lawyers vehemently objected, submitting a 10-page brief that cited more than half a dozen relevant court decisions. There was Martinez v. Delta Air Lines, Zicherman v. Korean Air Lines and, of course, Varghese v. China Southern Airlines, with its learned discussion of federal law and “the tolling effect of the automatic stay on a statute of limitations.”

There was just one hitch: No one — not the airline’s lawyers, not even the judge himself — could find the decisions or the quotations cited and summarized in the brief.

That was because ChatGPT had invented everything.

The lawyer who created the brief, Steven A. Schwartz of the firm Levidow, Levidow & Oberman, threw himself on the mercy of the court on Thursday, saying in an affidavit that he had used the artificial intelligence program to do his legal research — “a source that has revealed itself to be unreliable.”

Mr. Schwartz, who has practiced law in New York for three decades, told Judge P. Kevin Castel that he had no intent to deceive the court or the airline. Mr. Schwartz said that he had never used ChatGPT, and “therefore was unaware of the possibility that its content could be false.”

He had, he told Judge Castel, even asked the program to verify that the cases were real.

It had said yes.

Mr. Schwartz said he “greatly regrets” relying on ChatGPT “and will never do so in the future without absolute verification of its authenticity.”

Judge Castel said in an order that he had been presented with “an unprecedented circumstance,” a legal submission replete with “bogus judicial decisions, with bogus quotes and bogus internal citations.” He ordered a hearing for June 8 to discuss potential sanctions.

As artificial intelligence sweeps the online world, it has conjured dystopian visions of computers replacing not only human interaction, but also human labor. The fear has been especially intense for knowledge workers, many of whom worry that their daily activities may not be as rarefied as the world thinks — but for which the world pays billable hours.

Stephen Gillers, a legal ethics professor at New York University School of Law, said the issue was particularly acute among lawyers, who have been debating the value and the dangers of A.I. software like ChatGPT, as well as the need to verify whatever information it provides.

“The discussion now among the bar is how to avoid exactly what this case describes,” Mr. Gillers said. “You cannot just take the output and cut and paste it into your court filings.”

The real-life case of Roberto Mata v. Avianca Inc. shows that white-collar professions may have at least a little time left before the robots take over.

It began when Mr. Mata was a passenger on Avianca Flight 670 from El Salvador to New York on Aug. 27, 2019, when an airline employee bonked him with the serving cart, according to the lawsuit. After Mr. Mata sued, the airline filed papers asking that the case be dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired.

In a brief filed in March, Mr. Mata’s lawyers said the lawsuit should continue, bolstering their argument with references and quotes from the many court decisions that have since been debunked.

Soon, Avianca’s lawyers wrote to Judge Castel, saying they were unable to find the cases that were cited in the brief.

When it came to Varghese v. China Southern Airlines, they said they had “not been able to locate this case by caption or citation, nor any case bearing any resemblance to it.”

They pointed to a lengthy quote from the purported Varghese decision contained in the brief. “The undersigned has not been able to locate this quotation, nor anything like it in any case,” Avianca’s lawyers wrote.

Indeed, the lawyers added, the quotation, which came from Varghese itself, cited something called Zicherman v. Korean Air Lines Co. Ltd., an opinion purportedly handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in 2008. They said they could not find that, either.

Judge Castel ordered Mr. Mata’s attorneys to provide copies of the opinions referred to in their brief. The lawyers submitted a compendium of eight; in most cases, they listed the court and judges who issued them, the docket numbers and dates.

The copy of the supposed Varghese decision, for example, is six pages long and says it was written by a member of a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit. But Avianca’s lawyers told the judge that they could not find that opinion, or the others, on court dockets or legal databases.

Bart Banino, a lawyer for Avianca, said that his firm, Condon & Forsyth, specialized in aviation law and that its lawyers could tell the cases in the brief were not real. He added that they had an inkling a chatbot might have been involved.

Mr. Schwartz did not respond to a message seeking comment, nor did Peter LoDuca, another lawyer at the firm, whose name appeared on the brief.

Mr. LoDuca said in an affidavit this week that he did not conduct any of the research in question, and that he had “no reason to doubt the sincerity” of Mr. Schwartz’s work or the authenticity of the opinions.

ChatGPT generates realistic responses by making guesses about which fragments of text should follow other sequences, based on a statistical model that has ingested billions of examples of text pulled from all over the internet. In Mr. Mata’s case, the program appears to have discerned the labyrinthine framework of a written legal argument, but has populated it with names and facts from a bouillabaisse of existing cases.

Judge Castel, in his order calling for a hearing, suggested that he had made his own inquiry. He wrote that the clerk of the 11th Circuit had confirmed that the docket number printed on the purported Varghese opinion was connected to an entirely different case.

Calling the opinion “bogus,” Judge Castel noted that it contained internal citations and quotes that, in turn, were nonexistent. He said that five of the other decisions submitted by Mr. Mata’s lawyers also appeared to be fake.

On Thursday, Mr. Mata’s lawyers offered affidavits containing their version of what had happened.

Mr. Schwartz wrote that he had originally filed Mr. Mata’s lawsuit in state court, but after the airline had it transferred to Manhattan’s federal court, where Mr. Schwartz is not admitted to practice, one of his colleagues, Mr. LoDuca, became the attorney of record. Mr. Schwartz said he had continued to do the legal research, in which Mr. LoDuca had no role.

Mr. Schwartz said that he had consulted ChatGPT “to supplement” his own work and that, “in consultation” with it, found and cited the half-dozen nonexistent cases. He said ChatGPT had provided reassurances.

“Is varghese a real case,” he typed, according to a copy of the exchange that he submitted to the judge.

“Yes,” the chatbot replied, offering a citation and adding that it “is a real case.”

Mr. Schwartz dug deeper.

“What is your source,” he wrote, according to the filing.

“I apologize for the confusion earlier,” ChatGPT responded, offering a legal citation.

“Are the other cases you provided fake,” Mr. Schwartz asked.

ChatGPT responded, “No, the other cases I provided are real and can be found in reputable legal databases.”

But, alas, they could not be.

Sheelagh McNeil contributed research.

Benjamin Weiser is a reporter covering the Manhattan federal courts. He has long covered criminal justice, both as a beat and investigative reporter. Before joining The Times in 1997, he worked at The Washington Post. @ BenWeiserNYT

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The Impact of English Movies with Standard Subtitles on Enhancing the Writing Skills of EFL Students at Cihan University – Duhok

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  26. A Man Sued Avianca Airline. His Lawyer Used ChatGPT.

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