Top Problems Undergrads Have When Working on College Paper

Problems Students Run into when Writing College Papers and What to Do About Them – Writing constitutes a significant portion of what you do in college.

Essays, term papers, reports, reviews – it does not matter what discipline you study, if you are in high school or college, you are going to spend a lot of time writing these and other texts.

This means that making sure it all goes smoothly determines how well you are going to do in your academic career, even if you are not going to do any writing in your actual work later on.

Writing, however, is not easy, not by a long shot, and some people find it to be even more disagreeable than others. So what are the most common problems students run into when they write a college paper? What can you do if they mar your attempts at essay writing? This article will tell you what to do in such situations.

1. Citation Style

Usually, when you get a writing assignment, the teacher/professor mentions what citation style you should use in it. At the very least, your college should have a commonly accepted standard that is used for most writing assignments by default.

While meeting the requirements of formatting style may seem like a pure formality, it plays an important part in determining the quality of your paper and, consequently, the grade you are going to receive.

Therefore, you should make sure you know what citation style you should use before you start writing a college paper, as well as what using this style entails. Perhaps memorizing the entire style guide is overkill, but you should at the very least know how to format different types of sources and introduce quotations into the text.

2. Misunderstanding the Task

You would be amazed to learn how many students get poor grades simply because they fail to read the assignment they received from their professors carefully.

For example, if you receive a job to write an essay review, you can think something like this: “Ah, I never have any problems when I do my essay reviews, so why bother, I will easily finish my assignment regardless”.

You then read the assignment haphazardly and go on writing without paying attention to smaller details that may turn out to be crucial when you look at the bigger picture.

You may later find out that you missed an important detail somewhere and have to rewrite a huge portion of your paper, or, even worse, you may find it out after you hand your paper in and get a poor grade as a result.


3. Cliches

A cliché is a stable structure that may have been used as an expressive tool in the past, but over the years it has been used so many times by so many different people that it has lost all its expressive power.

Students often fall back to clichés when they struggle to say anything, which is why you should be particularly careful when you find it difficult to express your thoughts.

Many people find it difficult to get rid of clichés because they roll off the tongue (and the pen) so easily, but it is exactly what you should do if you want your writing to be any good.

If you find yourself defaulting to phrases like “at the end of the day”, “when all is said and done”, “let’s be honest”, or “avoid like the plague” often, it means that you have to do some serious reevaluation about your word choices.

4. Superfluity

Language and expression can be superfluous in many ways. You can use long, multi-syllable words in place of short, single-syllable ones. And you can use complex sentence structures when simpler ones would do.

You can tell about things that do not matter for the overall subject of your paper. In all these cases, your writing will benefit from editing that will remove the superfluity.

The general rule of thumb here is to eliminate everything that you do not absolutely need. If you can do without a word, remove it. Or if you can express your thought using a simpler and shorter sentence, do it. If you can omit a detail, you do not need it.

Go through your essay a few times following this principle, and it will become short, sweet, and to the point. Less is often more; when you understand it, your writing will shine.


5. Lack of Evidence

Academic writing is mostly concerned with your ability to prove your point and express your opinion. To do so, you have to present viable evidence. Depending on the discipline you study and the subject matter, the nature of the evidence may differ, but one thing is certain – you do need it.

If you make a statement but fail to produce reliable evidence to back it up, your entire essay may be called into question. This means that when you write, you have to make sure you have something to back your words up before you even start putting your thoughts into words.

Do your research beforehand, make sure you know what you are talking about, and everything will be alright.

6. Generalizations

When you generalize – that is, use sweeping statements without backing them up – you always run a risk of overreaching. The more general your statement is, the easier it is to refute it – it is enough to find one example of something that would contradict your statement to make your entire argument ridiculous.

You do not want this, so avoid phrases like “since the dawn of time”, “since time immemorial”, “throughout history”, “everybody knows” and so on. Be realistic, and you will never have such a problem.

Of course, student writers make many other mistakes, but we believe that the ones we mentioned here are among the most common and troublesome.

Pay attention to them, avoid them whenever possible, look for them when you edit and proofread your papers, and you will quickly be able to improve your writing without having to take any courses or study any textbooks. 

Happy Writing!


Divya is a writer, who loves to read and write. She is a Company Secretary by profession. She is passionate about art, reading, writing, music, and creativity. She loves to do research on ‘Parenting’ and discover new things now and then. Her passion about positive parenting pushed her to write on ‘Wonder Parenting’. Her loving daughter, Vachie, helped her to dig deep and reach new heights on Parenting. She believes that ‘Parenting is Patience’ and shares her own journey to express that parenting approach differs for every individual.
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