Words To Avoid In Research Papers: Best Practices

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In research papers, there are certain words that should be avoided. These include bias and discriminatory language, cliches, repetitiveness, wordiness, and inappropriate language that can damage credibility, undermine the argument, or alienate the audience.

By using appropriate language, such as concrete and abstract words, denotation and connotation, and active voice, the research paper can communicate clearly and concisely. It is important to consider the language used in academic writing to ensure that the content is not unnecessarily complex and the credibility of the research is maintained.

Check out this Youtube video: “How to Use Sources in a Research Paper and Avoid Plagiarism” for valuable tips on words to avoid in research papers!

Commonly Misused Words

Affect vs. Effect

Affect is typically a verb, indicating an action that brings about change, like “The weather affected his mood.” On the other hand, effect is typically a noun, representing the result or change that occurs, as in “the drought’s effect on plant growth.” Remember, “A” for action (affect) and “E” for end result (effect).

Their, There, They’re

“Their” is a possessive pronoun showing ownership, like “It’s their car.” “There” signifies a location or place, such as “We’ll meet there.” “They’re” is a contraction for “they are.” For example, “They’re coming for dinner.”

Your vs. You’re

“Your” is a possessive adjective, indicating ownership, like “Your responsibility.” “You’re” is a contraction for “you are.” For example, “You’re my best friend!”

Word Pair Usage
Affect vs. Effect Affect as a verb, effect as a noun indicating result
Their, There, They’re Their for ownership, there for location, they’re as a contraction for “they are”
Your vs. You’re Your as a possessive adjective, you’re as a contraction for “you are”

Remember, picking the right word helps to convey your message clearly and effectively.

words to avoid in research papers - Unnecessary Filler Words - words to avoid in research papers

Unnecessary Filler Words


Basically, this filler word is often used to simplify complex ideas or to summarize a concept. In research papers, it’s best to replace “basically” with a more precise description or straightforward statement.


Using the word “very” in research papers can dilute the impact of the intended message. It’s advisable to find stronger adjectives or adverbs to convey the depth or intensity without relying on “very.”


In scholarly writing, “really” is an unnecessary intensifier that can weaken the effectiveness of the text. It’s beneficial to eliminate “really” and rephrase sentences using more descriptive and impactful language.

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Biased Language

Biased language often creeps into research papers, and it’s crucial to be mindful of the language used to ensure inclusivity and sensitivity. When it comes to gender-specific pronouns, it’s best to steer clear of using terms like “he” or “she” when referring to a generic individual.

Instead, opt for gender-neutral pronouns such as “they” or rephrase the sentence to avoid gendered pronouns altogether.

Racially insensitive terms have no place in research papers. Words or phrases with racial connotations should be carefully scrutinized and eliminated.

For example, steer clear of terms with racially questionable origins such as “master bedroom” or phrases like “sold down the river,” as these can be offensive or triggering.

Similarly, religion-related language should be approached with sensitivity. Ensure that the language used in the research paper does not reflect prejudiced, stereotyped, or discriminatory views of specific religious groups.

It’s important to avoid language that may convey an undercurrent of superiority or misunderstanding based on religion.

To maintain objectivity, accuracy, and sensitivity in research papers, it’s crucial to avoid gender-specific pronouns, racially insensitive terms, and biased language related to religion. By doing so, researchers can ensure their work is inclusive, respectful, and free from potentially offensive language.

Biased Language Tips for Inclusivity
Gender-specific pronouns Opt for gender-neutral pronouns like “they”
Racially insensitive terms Scrutinize words with racially questionable origins
Religion-related language Avoid language conveying prejudice or stereotypes based on religion

words to avoid in research papers - Informal Language - words to avoid in research papers

Informal Language


Using contractions in writing research papers should generally be avoided. This means combining two words by omitting letters and using an apostrophe, such as “can’t” instead of “cannot”.

While contractions are common in casual writing, they can make research papers appear less formal and professional. It’s best to use the full form of words to maintain a clear and scholarly tone.

Slang words

When crafting research papers, it’s crucial to steer clear of using slang words. Slang can come across as overly informal and may not be universally understood or accepted within academic or professional environments.

Words like “lit” or “extra,” popular in informal conversations, have no place in the formal context of a research paper. Opt for formal vocabulary to convey your ideas effectively.

Overused Phrases

Overusing the term “in conclusion” can make your writing sound repetitive and predictable. Instead, try using phrases like “to sum up”, “in summary”, or “to wrap up” to add variety and create a more engaging conclusion.

“It is important to note that”

While it’s essential to convey important information, using this phrase repeatedly can become monotonous. Consider using alternatives such as “it is crucial to emphasize”, “it is noteworthy that”, or “it is worth mentioning” to maintain a fresh and impactful tone.

“It should be mentioned”

Repetitively using the phrase “it should be mentioned” may cause your writing to sound dull. Explore alternatives like “it is notable that”, “it is necessary to highlight”, or “it is significant to point out” to add dynamism and clarity to your statements.

Overused Phrase Alternative
“In conclusion” “To sum up”
“In summary”
“To wrap up”
“It is important to note that” “It is crucial to emphasize”
“It is noteworthy that”
“It is worth mentioning”
“It should be mentioned” “It is notable that”
“It is necessary to highlight”
“It is significant to point out”

Avoiding overused phrases enhances the flow and impact of your writing, creating a more compelling and sophisticated piece. Always strive to keep your language fresh and engaging, as this will captivate and maintain your readers’ interest.

Clichés and Idioms

Idiom Meaning
“A dime a dozen” Something very common or easily obtained.
“Bite the bullet” To endure a painful experience with courage.
“Cut to the chase” To get to the point without wasting time.

It’s no secret that clichés and idioms can be a dime a dozen in our everyday speech. We often hear phrases like “A dime a dozen” tossed around, portraying something as super common or easily obtainable.

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It’s akin to saying that something is a penny in a jar-oh wait, dime, my bad! As for “Bite the bullet”, well, that’s like summoning bravery to endure a painful experience.

It’s as if you’re facing a challenging situation head-on and finding the courage to see it through. And finally, “Cut to the chase” is like skipping the trailers and jumping straight into the main movie.

It’s about getting to the point without the need for lengthy explanations or unnecessary details. So next time you hear an idiom, just remember, there’s more than meets the eye!

Ambiguous Terminology

Vague quantifiers (e.g., many, some, few)

In academic writing, it’s crucial to avoid vague quantifiers like “many,” “some,” and “few” as they lack specificity and can lead to ambiguity. Instead, strive to use precise quantitative terms such as “approximately 70%,” “a minority of,” or “a significant proportion of.” By employing specific quantifiers, you enhance the clarity and credibility of your research papers, ensuring that readers can grasp the exact magnitude or proportion being conveyed.

Unclear acronyms and abbreviations

When crafting research papers, steer clear of unclear acronyms and abbreviations to prevent confusion among readers. Always spell out the full term when introducing an acronym for the first time, followed by the abbreviation in parentheses.

For instance, when referring to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for the first time, subsequently use ‘NASA’ in the document. Additionally, avoid using ambiguous abbreviations without context, as this can impede the comprehension of your research paper.

A clearly defined glossary can also help elucidate any unfamiliar acronyms or abbreviations.

Ambiguity to Avoid Specific Alternatives
Many, Some, Few Approximately 70%, A minority of
Ambiguous Acronyms and Abbreviations Clearly Defined Glossary

Remember, precision is paramount in academic writing to effectively communicate your research findings. By being mindful of these ambiguous terminologies, you can elevate the clarity and impact of your research papers.

Jargon and Technical Terms

Using industry-specific terms without explanation can make research papers hard for a general audience to understand. Instead of bombarding readers with technical jargon, strive to provide clear explanations or use relatable analogies.

For example, instead of using “API,” you might explain it as a “connector that allows different software to talk to each other.”

Overusing complex terminology for a general audience is like speaking in a foreign language to someone who doesn’t understand it. To avoid this, it’s crucial to strike a balance between using technical terms sparingly and ensuring they are well-explained when used.

For instance, rather than inundating readers with “A/B testing” without context, it’s better to briefly describe it as “comparing two different versions to see which one is more effective.”

Industry-Specific Term Explanation
A/B Testing Comparing two versions to assess effectiveness
API Software connector enabling seamless interaction
Alt Text Description of image for visually impaired

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words to avoid in research papers - Conclusion - words to avoid in research papers


It is important to use appropriate language in research papers because it enhances the credibility and professionalism of the work. By using precise and clear language, the research findings can be effectively communicated to the audience, leading to a better understanding of the study.

Additionally, using the right language ensures that the research is taken seriously by the academic community and adds value to the scholarly conversation.

Moreover, to avoid common pitfalls in language usage in academic writing, it is advisable to steer clear of using overly complex or ambiguous words. Instead, opt for simple and straightforward language that can convey the intended meaning without confusion or misinterpretation.

Furthermore, avoiding biased or overly emotional language is crucial to maintain objectivity and neutrality in the research paper. It is important to remember that using inclusive and respectful language also plays a significant role in creating an inclusive and diverse academic environment.

Finally, it is essential to proofread the research paper thoroughly to identify and eliminate any language errors, such as grammar and punctuation mistakes. Seeking feedback from peers or professors can also help in improving the language usage in the research paper.

By following these final tips, researchers can ensure that their language is appropriate, clear, and effective in communicating the research findings to the intended audience.

Frequently Asked Questions

What words are not allowed in research paper?

Jargon, clichés, and modifiers are words not to use in a research paper as they don't improve your writing.

What words should you avoid in a research question?

Avoid any unclear words and modifying adjectives such as usually, often, and sometimes.

What should you not say in a research paper?

Avoid expressions that are too informal, unsophisticated, vague, exaggerated, or subjective.

Which of the following word should be avoided in research questions?

Avoid expressions that are too informal, unsophisticated, vague, exaggerated, or subjective.

What words you shouldn't use in research paper?

Do not use language that is too informal, vague, exaggerated, or subjective.

Which phrase should be avoided in research proposal?

Avoid expressions that imply personal beliefs or feelings.

What should you avoid when writing a research proposal?

Exclude lengthy sentences, complex language, and assumptions.

What words are not allowed in research titles?

Avoid vague openings and unnecessary filler words in research titles.
Lora Turner

Lora Turner is an Experienced HR professional worked with the large organizations and holding 15 years of experience dealing with employee benefits. She holds expertise in simplifying the leave for the employee benefits. Contact us at: [email protected]