There are pitfalls that can get in your way and waste valuable time while working on a research paper.  It can help if you follow a timesaving project management plan.

Some pitfalls when working on a research paper include:

  • Using Google to research
  • Researching or writing without direction
  • Trying to find the perfect research source
  • Trying to write perfect sentences or a perfect paper
  • Working at your wrong time or place
  • Focusing on APA or grammar while writing the paper

Have you come across any of these pitfalls while working on a research paper? Use a timesaving project management plan:

Expert Tip: Use a calendar or schedule for completing the process below to keep yourself on pace with meeting the deadline.

Your Timesaving Process to Completing a Research Paper

Open the APA Template so your paper is already formatted in APA style. In that document, create section headers after the introduction that directly align with your assignment prompt. You now have placeholders for topics at least and maybe even part of an outline.  

*What if my assignment prompt doesn’t lead to distinct section headers? Use the introduction to write “Overall topic,” then create section headers that simply state: “Main idea #1,” “Main idea #2,” and so on.

In each section of the document, write down what you need to learn or obtain from research for each section. Also, write down key terms that you may use when researching within the Library.

Expert Tip: Work on your research paper at the time of day and in the environment that you are most productive.

Begin doing some research.

  • As you search for potential research sources, avoid using Google and instead do some quality background research through the UAGC Library.
  • Once you have some background information on your topic, you will begin searching for relevant and credible sources within the UAGC Library.
  • When you find a source, just scan through areas of the source such as the abstract, the section headings or table of contents, or the conclusion or findings sections rather than read them in full at this time.

Reach out to a UAGC Librarian if you are not quickly finding potential sources.

Once you have a research source that suits your needs, use those sections you created in your Word document to take notes as you read through the source—your own thoughts and ideas, information directly from that source, and any questions that you have. You should be writing as you are reading—not formal writing, but definitely getting some ideas down.

No need to consider your reader at this point.  

As you note any research or ideas from a source within a section of your paper, go ahead and add that reference citation to your references list.

No need to format it perfectly at this time—just get it added.

Expert Tip: Reward yourself for accomplishing a few steps to help you stay motivated.

Review the notes you’ve taken and draft an initial thesis statement within the introduction section of your paper. What is your overall argument or statement about the topic and what main points about the topic do you plan to share in your paper?

No need to write the full introduction at this point—just get a working thesis. Save both your introduction and conclusion paragraphs to write after writing the body of your paper. 

Develop a possible topic sentence for each of your paper sections. If you have several main points to make within a single section, create a topic sentence for each of the main points within that section. Just focus on the topic sentences for now rather than writing paragraphs.

Remember to stay flexible. Learning about a new topic is a journey. As you are reading, thinking, and writing, you may change your initial thoughts or your approach to a topic. You may not use every source or all of your notes in your final research paper draft, which is not time wasted – it is proof that you are gaining knowledge through research.  Remain flexible through this process.


Choose a section that you feel most interested in or most confident about. Begin drafting paragraphs for that section, but don’t focus on making the writing perfect.

  • Make sure your topic sentence relates in some way to your thesis statement in your introduction.
  • Your notes from the research you’ve done will transform into your supporting sentences after your topic sentence.
  • Add in an in-text citation (the author of the source) where needed at this time—it doesn’t need to be formatted perfectly right now.

Choose another section to draft, saving your introduction and conclusion paragraphs for the end.

Expert Tip: Check in with your schedule routinely to ensure you stay on track to meet the deadline.

Looking at the assignment directions, your thesis, and body paragraphs, check the development of your paper. Do you need to find a bit more research or adjust your own ideas? Go ahead and do that additional research or adjust your ideas.

Expert Tip: Take a break between drafting and reviewing or revising.

Review the content of your paper.

  • Does your thesis statement still work for what you’ve included in your paper? Revise it as needed.
  • Do any points or topics seem missing or need a bit more evidence from research to support your thesis or meet the assignment directions? Use the assignment rubric to check and do a bit more research if needed.
  • Do each of your body paragraphs follow correct academic body paragraph structure—topic sentence, evidence as support, & your own analysis and interpretations? Revise or add as needed.
  • Does your introduction and conclusion paragraphs contain what is needed for academic introductions and conclusions? Revise or add as needed.

Make edits to your paper. In this final step, keep your reader in mind.

Expert Tip: Use this project management plan for your next assignment. Soon, it will become second nature, allowing you to save even more time.