Mistakes to Avoid when Writing a Research Article

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In many disciplines, publishing is an important part of being a graduate student. Students who go on to secure tenure track faculty positions find that publishing is a vital part of achieving tenure. However, the process behind writing a research paper is not natural to most of us(Hudelson & Perneger, 2004). Learning the rules and a few mistakes to avoid will go a long way when you’re ready to publish your research. Here are five common impediments to getting published.


1. The research question is too vague, too broad or not specified. A clearly stated research question helps you organize the information that should be included in your paper. If your research addressed more than one question, write more than one paper. Think in terms of “optimally publishable units” rather than “least publishable units.”

2. The structure of the paper is chaotic. It can be easy to unintentionally include methods in your results section or results in your discussion section. Take the time to clearly outline your research paper before you begin to write, keep in mind what each section needs to accomplish.
• Introduction -state your research question
• Methods - describe how you answered your research question
• Results - explain what you observed
• Discussion - discuss what you think your results mean


3. Limitations of the study are not acknowledged. Your discussion section tells readers what you think your results mean, both for moving your research forward and to indicate ways your research can be improved. Readers will want to learn more about your limitations, ways you can improve your research and implications the limitations have on your research question. Including limitations shows a thorough evaluation of your methods and result.


4. The research question is not answered. Because the discussion section allows for the most freedom, it also can be the most difficult section to
write. Before you start this section, go back to your research question and think about how you want to answer it. Revisit your research question frequently while writing the discussion.


5. Grammar and use of language are poor. The Writing Center (http://www.unl.edu/writing/) provides free consultations for graduate students
with graduate students who can help you at any point in your writing, especially when you’re polishing and finalizing yourresearch paper. Use resources such as Elements of Style by Strunk and White to become familiar with the proper use of grammar.

Books and articles about publishing research articles are available from a number of sources. Here are just a few.

Becker, H.S.(1986). Writing for social scientists: How to start and finish your thesis book or article.Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Choi, K. (2002). How to publish in top journals, available at: http://www.roie.org/howi.htm.

Thyer, B.A. (1994). Successful publishing in scholarly journals. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Source

Hudelson, P.M., & Perneger, T.V. (2004). Writing a research article for beginners. Journal for Quality in Health Care, 16, 191-192.