Is an Essay a Research Paper: The Differences from Each

essay research paper differences

essay research paper differences

An essay is a written piece that is used to present an idea, propose an argument, or initiate a debate. Essays are the most common types of academic assignments in many learning institutions because choices to write one are limitless. 

The learner through essays presents ideas in a non-fictional way.

On the other hand, a research paper is a piece of writing that explains what you have learned after a deep exploration of a topic. Information included in research papers is found from sources such as books, articles, internet sites, and ideas.

Research papers also must integrate personal opinions, knowledge, and ideas.

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Is an Essay a Research Paper?

essay research paper differences

Some essays are research papers while others are not.

For example, if an argumentative essay requires you to explore available sources to create a firm way to either support or oppose something then that essay is a research paper.

The same applies to descriptive essays, expository, and compare and contrast essays among others.

However, personal or narrative essays which tell personal experiences that require no further exploration of information cannot be considered research papers.

Some essays can also be considered expanded research papers. This is only applicable to those that have researched information that is evaluated and interpreted into a personal argument.

A research paper should always have a reasonable length.

To add to that, an essay can be considered to be a research paper because it requires a strong thesis statement. This helps essays sound more confident just like research papers.

The thesis statements in essays are supported by real-life events, facts, and statistical data the same way it is in research papers.

Essays just like research papers have to be referenced. Instructors expect learners to provide a reference page and intext citations to indicate the sources of information included in the essay.

This means that formatting methods that are used in research papers are also used in essays. This makes most essays that are encountered in academics and research papers very similar.

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Differences between an Essay and a Research Paper

The following are the major points that show the difference between essays and research papers:

an essay format

Essays aim to present personal opinions and point of view of the writer while research papers focus on exploring and writing about various points of view.

All ideas presented in research papers must have a personal touch or the author’s voice to show the stance taken on them.

Essays are mostly short in length. Most of them range between five to nine paragraphs. These paragraphs contain the introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. On the other hand, research papers are lengthy.

It is very rare to find a research paper that does not need a detailed explanation that requires the writer to use many pages.

On average, research papers reach up to eight pages with some extending even to twenty or more pages.

In some essays, you are not required to provide deep meaning or analysis about something. For example, when the essay is testing your creativity level then the only thing you have to do is provide your personal opinion on the topic.

Contrarily, research papers require you to extensively research a certain topic to an extent that there is little left uncovered. This is the only way that you will be able to formulate credible opinions and ideas. This is by gaining a comprehensive understanding of the topic.

Essays provide you with the opportunity to improve your writing skills. This is as a result of presenting your though using writing mechanics such as logic, academic and formatting styles, and creativity.

On the other hand, research helps you to understand how to compare various chunks of data or sources on a certain topic. This enables you to present a clear cumulative and readable analysis of all the findings.

Therefore, the purpose of essays is to help the writer gain personal writing skills and know how to address a certain topic individually while the purpose of a research paper is to help the writer gain better knowledge on a particular topic.

Your task when writing essays is to put your thoughts into writing as you consider the specifics of the essay type and the audience. Therefore, examples and writing skills are important.

On the other hand, the task of a research topic is to restructure and present a topic through the lens of your methodology and research objectives. This is why information has to be compiled and evaluated before a research paper is written.

In essays, it is not always a requirement that you use external sources or strict methodology but in research papers, the use of external sources and strict methodologies such as literature reviews is a must.

a term paper outline

Research papers show the primary literature of a topic which is genuine exploration done by the writer while essays include content already published in articles. Therefore, because the content of essays is not genuinely researched it is referred to as secondary literature.

The writer of the research formulates research questions, gathers raw data, and then conducts detailed research while an essay writer picks a topic and summarizes its already done literature while discussing the personal point of view.

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Is an Essay a Term Paper?

An essay is not a term paper because it does not allow you to express the specific viewpoint of a topic while integrating personal ideas and insight. Therefore, a term paper is more of a research paper than it is an essay.

Also, term papers are very long and cannot be compared to essays. This is because they test everything that you have learned for the whole semester. Essays can only concentrate on a single topic, unlike term papers.

Extensive research is required in term papers unlike in essays where your creativity is needed to write the paper. Also, essays do not require evaluation and compilation of research like term papers.

To add to that, citations must be included in essays to note where you sourced information from something that is not a must in some essays.