Research and writing strategies are not always covered in the college classroom; however, many students admit that they struggle with both. Try our easy tips for how to touch on research and writing techniques in your classroom.

To determine what college students identified as their primary obstacle, we surveyed thousands of students asking, “What is your biggest challenge when it comes to a research paper?”

Identifying the issues

  • 30% of college students surveyed said that simply “writing it” is the biggest challenge to a research paper
  • 19% said “creating my position/thesis statement”
  • 16% said “finding good sources”
  • 13% said “finding a topic”
  • 13% said the “amount of time involved”
  • 8% said “finding good sources”

It is of course important to have a good foundation of research, notes, and original ideas before beginning a research paper. Oftentimes, college students may not prepare their research thoroughly enough prior to starting the writing process, making it exponentially more difficult and time-consuming.

According to authors Randall VanderMey, Verne Meyer, John Van Rys, and Patrick Sebranek in The College Writer: A Guide to Thinking, Writing, and Researching, Fifth Edition, “The best research writing centers on your ideas—ideas you develop through thoughtful engagement with sources. In poor research papers, the sources dominate, and the writer’s perspective disappears.” (398)

Starting on the right foot

To help guide the research and writing process, the authors suggest that students reference a research flow chart as soon as they receive their assignment. “When you get your assignment—whether to write a five-page paper on pasteurization or to develop a Web site on Middle Eastern political conflicts—review the process and tailor it to the task.” (399)

The Research Process: A Flowchart

“The Research Process: A Flowchart” from The College Writer: A Guide to Thinking, Writing, and Researching, 5th Edition (page 399, fig 24.2) Copyright 2015 Cengage Learning.

“The Research Process: A Flowchart,” from The College Writer, outlines getting started, planning, conducting the research, and organizing the results. This flowchart is meant to serve as a guideline for keeping students on track. You can create your own unique flowchart specifically based on your classroom’s needs and include it in your syllabus, as they are flexible enough to be adapted to diverse research projects.

Reference: VanderMey, Randall, Verne Meyer, John Van Rys, and Patrick Sebranek. 2015. The College Writer: A Guide to Thinking, Writing, and Researching, 5th ed. Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

What topic do your students struggle with the most when it comes to research and writing? Share your ideas below.

© 2015 Cengage Learning.