Research paper writing and style standards
One difficulty college students often mention when discussing the inherent challenges in writing research papers is the use of a formal style standard. Style standards are frequently seen as nothing more than inconvenience, a torturous requirement foisted upon students by nitpicky instructors. Students’ opinions of styles are further lowered when they find that they’ve underestimated how important conformation to a particular standard is to receiving a good score; receiving a subpar or even failing grade on an otherwise competent paper only reinforces their notion that styles are absurd. However, academic writing uses styles for good reason—and we’ll explain why you should use them here, as well.
- Importance to instructors
- Proper citation denotes proper credit.
- Consistent presentation allows ideas to be considered on their own merits.
This was mentioned above, but it bears repeating, if only so that you don’t miss out on points on your grade. Whether or not you agree with the use of formal styles or their practicality, your instructor certainly does—or at the very least they will enforce those standards and you will not benefit from not following them to the letter. Any time you imagine you’ve saved by skimping on citations or ignoring format requirements will hurt your grade, sometimes severely. Always consider stylistic requirements to be equally as important as the rest of the requirements for the assignment.
Citations are annoying, but they aren’t there to “prove” you researched, which is how many students see them. Keep in mind that citations are used by published authors in the larger academic community, authors whom no one would suspect of not researching. Rather, using citations is a way of showing proper respect for the ideas of those who have written about the topic before you. When it comes to factual citations, rather than opinion based ones, they also provide the reader with a means to fact check what you’ve written.
Perhaps most importantly, academic formal writing styles allow authors to write in a generally consistent way, which allows readers and researchers to consider the content of the writing and the skill of the writer rather than focusing on mundane formatting details which can be distracting. Academic writing must communicate ideas—ideas which are often controversial, complex, or unusual. Anything which doesn’t support the communication of these ideas is a distraction. Consistent styles and formatting remove distractions.