Writing a research paper is smooth; citations take real effort. The right referencing adds credibility to your research. Plus, it is morally and legally right to add details about the sources used in your paper.
Now, there are about a hundred different citation styles that you can pick from. Generally, your professors specify which layout you should follow. And I do not need to tell you how confusing APA style referencing it.
APA 6th referencing involves a bunch of rules that are often hard to follow. It lays down the format of the paper, how to present facts and make your essay readable. And citations and referencing hold a significant chunk of your grade.
Here are some common mistakes that I’ve observed students make when writing their papers.
1} No running heads or page numbers
The running head and page numbers are the primary aspects of APA referencing. The title of the paper should be positioned at the upper half of the article, in-between the margins. Your name, institution and other details would come below the title.
Most papers follow the standard Times New Roman font size 12. You can sans serif typeface like Arial for the body of the article. These fonts are more visible and easier to read. The page numbers appear at the top-most right corner of every page.
2} Not including an abstract
The abstract is an essential feature of any research paper. It gives the reader a brief idea about your writing and research. Note that the abstract is usually placed before the introduction. However, I suggest my students write their outlines after they’ve completed the paper
The abstract acts as a summary of your research. It lays down the primary texts and sources taken. You also discuss the leading theory or idea of your topic. Ensure that the abstract comes on a separate page. Also, keep the abstract short, concise and to the point.
3} No standard structure
The structure of a typical paper includes a beginning, a middle and an ending. The introduction sets the tone and context of the writing. You can outline a brief history or background of your research. Also, mention the research methodology followed.
The middle or main body dives headlong into the topic. It is an in-depth study of your field, expanding into the different theories and facts. You can then improvise upon these ideas and put in your two cents on the subject.
The conclusion ties all the loose ends together, giving your paper a definitive ending. This structure follows a linear pattern. It is logical and easy to understand.
4} Omitting relevant keywords
Every field of research has a set of keywords and phrases relevant to the topic. For instance, if you are writing a paper on marketing, you have to include specific terms like market, consumer etc. These standard terms add weight to your research.
Ensure that you cite the source if you are using a unique phrase or word coined by someone else. You can even add a footnote to explain the term and its definition. Put these terms in inverted quotes to highlight their source.
The keywords are also used for indexing your paper in search engines. Include the keywords below the abstract in a separate section. You can find more details about it in the APA 6th Publication Manual, the latest edition.
5} Lengthy or bulky headings
Your paper can have multiple sections in the main body. Keep your headings creative but compact. Lengthy titles are complicated and also hard to fit in. And while we are at it, keep the language of the paper simple. Avoid using lengthy or complicated words. This doesn’t mean you adopt an informal style, though.
A research paper is an academic work. Keep the tone and language formal, professional, but readable. Ensure that your writing is grammatically correct. There are multiple tools to proofread and edit the paper. Grammarly is one tool that I strongly recommend for all my students.
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6} No in-text citations
In-text citations come in the text or main content of the paper. You can use this technique to add quotes and facts from a journal. Simply add the name of the author and the date of publication in brackets.
You can then add the other details below or towards the end of your paper. It is essential to include the name of the text, the author and publication details.
Consult your professor about referencing media or online sources. If you are citing a website other media platform, then add the URL as well. The APA 6th referencing has a detailed explanation about this in their guide as well.
7} No footnotes
Footnotes are vital to all research papers. Notes give you the space to put in some extra tidbits or anecdotes that might interest your reader. These details might not fit into the main body of the paper.
As per the APA referencing style, you can add footnotes and number them along with the in-text citations.
8} Improper referencing
Referencing and indexing is a tricky business. It is better to number your references and then explain them towards the end of your paper. This makes it easier for the reader to refer to your citations
Use the first initials of the author with the publication date to cite the same author in multiple sections. This saves you a lot of time and effort. It also keeps the paper simple, clutter-free and readable.
9} Incorrect quotations
Adding quotations enriches your paper. It gives the reader a fair idea of your research sources and readings. However, ensure that you add quotation marks and cite the author you quote.
Also, separate the quotation from the rest of your content. You can highlight the quote, align it to the centre of your paper. This helps the reader focus on the quote/phrase.
10} Not adding all the authors.
There may be instances where you find multiple authors from a single source. It can be a book co-authored by a team of scholars. Or you can find a journal which was originally written and then later translated by someone else.
In these cases, the APA referencing gives you the provision to state multiple authors who contributed to the source. To save space, you can add the last name of the primary author followed by a suffix “et all”. This is a Latin phrase that roughly translates to “and others”.
11} The trouble with paraphrasing
Some students paraphrase information from different sources to avoid the risk of plagiarism. Well, paraphrasing without proper referencing is another form of copying. You borrow from the idea of the cause, not the exact language. Simply changing the style doesn’t make it your idea.
I suggest my students add the source of the idea or key term used in the paper. This gives you research more authenticity. It also shows high integrity and respect for the source and author.
12} Not having a proper conclusion.
The conclusion gives the paper a beautiful structure. You can lay down your final thoughts and observations about the topic. It also gives you the space to reinstate your argument and repeat the findings.
The conclusion doesn’t always have to be close-ended though. Discuss the scope of potential research and development in the field of study. You can keep it open-ended and open to interpretations.
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13} No bibliography
The bibliography comes towards the very end of your paper, after the conclusion. This is the section where you state all the text, primary and otherwise used for your research. The bibliography includes the books, journals, papers and websites cited in the article.
As per the APA referencing, you arrange the bibliography alphabetically. However, the surname of the author comes first, following by their name, and the text details. Also, the bibliography list is formatted in ascending order.
14} The bottom line
There is a specific method to cite your sources in a research paper. Every university follows its pattern. You must be aware of the MLA and APA referencing– the two most common styles developed.
The APA 6th Referencing, in particular, is slightly more complicated. A single mistake can cost you heavily. I hope this guide helps you ace your assignment and get that perfect score!
15} For those who are new to APA Referencing?
There are two significant steps to writing an excellent essay. The first is the content, which involves the research, the writing and proofreading. The next step is arranging all the information in chronological order.
APA referencing is a popular formatting style to structure your paper. Focus on both the matter and the manner of presentation. APA referencing is one kind of layout that students follow. It includes a running header, an abstract, and the main body.
Referencing is a standardised practice in research used to acknowledge all the sources you’ve referred to for your study. This includes both in-text citations and the bibliography.
It also gives the reader additional information on your topic. Anyone can refer to these sources and find out where or how you got the idea for your paper.
APA referencing also protects you from plagiarism related accusations. Without citations, people can accuse you of intellectual theft- which is a legal offence.
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