Don’t derail your research papers — How to avoid citation errors

Research paper citationsWhat’s the best research paper? Your first answer is probably “a finished one!” While it may feel awesome to wrap up a grueling paper, you know that just “finished” doesn’t always cut it. Ensuring you have a solid piece of work comes not only from good writing, but also by turning in correct bibliographies, zero citation errors, quality writing and, of course, absolutely no plagiarism. The easiest way to knock out those research papers and be certain you’ve turned in some A+ work? Read on!

Do some research

Maybe you’ve written what feels like hundreds of research papers. Maybe this is your first. Either way, everyone can benefit from a little bit of research first on how to write a great paper. is a great source for books that can guide you through the research paper writing process. One book that can help is Schaum’s Writing Great Research Papers by Laurie Rozakis. It details the qualities of a good research paper and offers a top ten list of criteria every paper should include. Paramount among these points are Nos. 7 through 9:

7. The work is original, not plagiarized. Every outside source is carefully documented.
8. All supporting material used in preparation of the paper can be verified.
9. The paper follows a specific format, including the use of correct documentation and a Works Cited page.

Also, be sure you understand thoroughly the assignment and what your professor is looking for in the research paper. Do you have to write an essay or an argumentative work? Do you have to have a specific number of sources? What citation style are you supposed to use? Not paying attention to the professor’s stipulations is a sure-fire way to get the wrong kind of attention for your efforts.

Give credit where it is due

One thing no professor will ever overlook is plagiarism. Quality research papers need sources and supporting materials, but you must always acknowledge their use properly to avoid any issues of copying. The Complete Guide to Referencing and Avoiding Plagiarism by Colin Neville is available through and provides the Golden Rule of referencing: “to give the reader enough information to help them easily and quickly find the source you have cited. If they wanted to look at your source and check it for themselves, could they find it easily with the information you have supplied?”

Questia makes it easy to include the books you have cited within your research paper with no more than a click of your mouse. Simply save the book to your active project. You can also highlight specific text you wish to cite in your paper using one of three citation styles: APA, Chicago or MLA. Questia automatically generates your bibliography, from your selected citations, in the style you pick.

The website, in a post “Preventing plagiarism when writing,” urges students writing research papers to “When in doubt, cite sources.” The article also stresses the importance of knowing how to paraphrase, saying “Changing a few words of the original sentences does NOT make your writing a legitimate paraphrase.” The post adds that even rephrased content will need to be cited because the original idea contained in the sentence came from someone other than yourself.

Stay focused

Hopefully you understand the importance of avoiding citation errors and plagiarism, but there are still other ways you can derail your research papers. Writing Center Underground, the blog for the Metropolitan Community College Writing Center, shares the “Top Ten Tips for Writing Research Papers” by E. Mack. Some common issues discussed include:

  • Lack of organization and focus. Keep the points you want to make together; avoid jumping back and forth between reasons.
  • Lack of conclusion. Often students concentrate so intensely on the body of a research paper that they overlook the importance of a strong conclusion.
  • Lack of careful proofreading. Relying on spell-check is not going to help you find word usage errors, one of the most common errors in academic papers. It’s also difficult to find everything in one read-through.

If you properly understand the assignment, thoroughly plan your paper, clearly reference all your sources and absolutely avoid plagiarism, you are sure to construct research papers both you, and your professors, will be proud of.

5 replies
  1. Abdiraman H Osman says:

    This is great! You know what? It has just came the right time as I was going to write my first research paper and didn’t honestly know much about it. Thank you so much and keep it up.


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