Research Problems
to Avoid

Jumping into Research Prematurely, Unprepared

It would be unwise just to try to dive right into heavy research and expect a grade "A" paper to emerge effortlessly.

Good research requires energy and careful consideration. It also helps if you prepare a little:

Being Discouraged by Difficulties

You might find there is no single book or website on your topic. While this definitely means you will need to work at your topic or adjust your overall approach, this can also be an exciting opportunity to bring ideas together in new ways!

Do not dwell on any difficulties. Consider it a challenge - one you will meet with enthusiasm and determination!

Using Just One Information Source

Whenever possible, try not to rely on one source. Getting multiple perspectives on a topic can help you better understand a subject while detecting possible bias, inaccuracies, or other shortcomings in sources.

Avoiding Contradictory Evidence and Views

If you only embrace information sources supporting your views, your research can become inconsiderate, imbalanced, inconclusive, and incomplete.

"Opposing views," statements, and facts can be extremely useful and educational even if you disagree with them or seek to prove something to the contrary.

Not Engaging in Critical and Creative Thinking

Research is not merely about "finishing an assignment": it is about learning how to work creatively with ideas, developing your own abilities to think, ask questions, interpret information, and express yourself.

Take a more active role in your research by actively considering all information you encounter.

Reconsider each source consulted. Try not to accept what appear to be "facts" until you can verify them in other sources.

Limiting Yourself to the Internet

Not everything is online, and search engines are not always the answer.

Libraries offer many specialized encyclopedias (print and electronic), databases, journals, and many other free tools that can make research easier and help you find facts fast.

Ask a librarian what research options exist for your topic.

Simple Keyword Searches

Internet searching seems to have conditioned many researchers to describe research topics too simply and rely exclusively on keyword searches.

Unspecific or inaccurate search terms often lead to poor search results.

Using more precise search terms along with advanced search methods can help you locate more specific and relevant information.

Please see our "Advanced Searches" flyer for more on that.

Sources – Citing Them Properly

There are two common problems in this area: failing to document sources of information you used or documenting sources you did not use.

Remember to attribute all quotes and facts correctly (and in the right style – MLA, etc.), but do not bother to pad "Works Cited" pages with books you did not consult.

Waiting Until the Last Minute

Please do not do this. Give yourself plenty of time. Visit your library as early as possible so you have timely access to library materials - or a couple of weeks to request items from other libraries if necessary.

Not Asking for Assistance

Your instructor and your local library are eager to help you make the most of your education and research activities.

Whenever unsure, ask a librarian!

Not asking is one of the worst mistakes you can make when doing research!

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