If you’re continually getting papers turned in at the last minute and poorly researched, it may be that students are unsure of the amount of work that must go into writing a polished research paper.

To find out where students might be confused or cutting corners, we recently surveyed thousands of college students asking, “On average, how much time do you think it’ll take you to find citable sources when assigned a paper or presentation?”

Research time

Given the options of “Less than 1 hour,” “1–2 hours,” “3–5 hours,” “5+ hours,” we discovered that the majority (47%) of college students think it takes only 1–2 hours to find citable sources for their research paper.

College student research time

After this, 24% think it takes 3-5 hours, 23% think it takes less than an hour, and 7% think it takes five or more hours.

We also asked hundreds of instructors what they recommend, and naturally, the majority felt this was too little time spent researching.


So how to encourage students to spend more than a couple hours researching? In our recent post, “What Keeps College Students Motivated? Their Responses,” we revealed key factors makes students want to learn more than anything else. We had surveyed over 3,500 college students, asking, “What motivates you most to succeed in college?”

From a list of several options, almost half (49%) of the students selected “career goals” as their primary motivating factor for success. This comes before future earning goals, their GPA, and any plans for advanced or additional degrees.

Consider if there may be a way to integrate your students’ future career goals into their research papers. Whether its the topic itself or simply a theme that they keep in mind, such as writing as if you were presenting the idea to your future company. This way, they may be able to better understand the broader value of the course and feel compelled to research the topic thoroughly.

How do you encourage students to conduct thorough research? Share your ideas below.