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Research Habits that Sabotage Your Papers


Research papers are hard work. Don’t sabotage your paper’s grade before it’s even turned in. Help make your research process more efficient and ethical by kicking these four research habits to the curb!

Habit 1: Waiting until the last minute

We all do it. When it’s not something fun or easy, the natural instinct is to keep putting it off until it absolutely has to get done. Starting an essay at the last minute is convenient and temporarily nice, but can stress you out later and won’t help anyone do their best writing.

The answer: Set smaller deadlines for yourself before the teacher’s due date (e.g., outline, research, draft, editing, etc.). This makes the entire process of writing a paper less intimidating and can help you manage your time without resorting to doing it all the night before. Planning ahead means you can rest easier knowing you’re ahead of the game.

Habit 2: Using unreliable sources

“Of course it’s true! I read it on the internet!” is a classic joke for a reason. Always question anything you read online, even when the source seems legit. For example, did you know that some sites put out ads disguised as articles? Also, blogs can be great but be aware of the blogger’s background. Some bloggers are experts in their fields and really know what they are talking about. Others are novices with opinions and no evidence to back them up.

When reading a source of dubious credibility, there are a few things you can do to check if they are reliable. Go to the “About Me” or “About Us” section of an article to learn about the author or site’s authority and background. Scan the headlines and a few other articles of the website to judge if the website is fairly objective or leans toward an agenda. Finally, verify the information you’ve found with another source or two…which brings us to the next tip…

Habit 3: Getting all of your information from one source

Getting all a paper’s information from one source might seem like an easy solution, but what if that source is wrong?

Using multiple sources might take a little more researching time, but it also means more evidence that supports your thesis. It is also the best way to help you present a balanced view of a topic.

Avoid plagiarism and make sure your facts are straight by checking at least two or three sources and citing all the ones you use in your paper. That brings us to the last habit…

Habit 4: Forgetting to cite your sources

Your paper is done, and it is beautiful: double-spaced, a neat heading, the perfect creative title. There’s just one thing missing: parenthetical citations and your works cited (or references) page. The annoying part is all that work you just did will be for nothing if your sources are not cited.

Luckily, this part is easier today than it has ever been before! Citation Machine citing tools can help you easily create MLA citations, APA citations, and more! Just remember that you still need review the tool’s form to see if there’s any information you can add from the source that wasn’t automatically included, like a year of publication (often found in the first few pages of a journal or the very bottom of a website).

Master grammar basics with our free guides that talk about linking verbs, what is an adjective, how to use a preposition, and more!

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