Term Papers Research Papers

The Difference between Research and Term Papers

Though some may think that research papers and term papers are the same, they are not. While the two types of papers do share many types of similarities, they can also have differences. The following information will explain compare both to give you a clear understanding of the main difference between research and term papers.

What is a term paper?

Students are required to write term papers to demonstrate that they’ve gained the required knowledge and skills in a certain subject matter. It is usually assigned to students near the end of a class, as to count toward the subject’s final grade; in fact at times it will be the only final assigned. Although the length will vary greatly, it’s common for them to be from three to five thousand words.

Moreover, term papers can come in the form of a critical essay that covers a current or popular topic. When structured like this the student must include their point of view on the subject while also demonstrating an accurate and clear understanding of the topic. The paper should also contain some arguments that are both compelling and accompanied by evidence or facts for support.

What is a research paper?

A research paper is an academic style of writing that requires the student to answer a significant, methodical, and theoretical level of questioning. So, much the same as the term paper – the student must interpret what he or she gathered from the subject matter to display a clear understanding in the form of a paper. It can be various lengths, also ranging up to five thousand words.

How do they compare?

These papers have a great deal in common – here is a list of similarities:

  • The topics can be chosen by students or instructors but this will depend on the school, subject, and professor.
  • Each type of paper requires students to use various references; the expected materials include journal articles, encyclopedias, text books, or other reputable sources.
  • Research and term papers both contain central statements and ideas that require research in order to discuss, support and defend personal viewpoints.
  • The best way to begin a term or research paper is by creating an outline of the main and supporting points.
  • How are they different?

    The fact is that while the two types of papers are called by different names they are very much the same. The only main difference is that a research paper can be assigned at any time during the course. On the other hand, a term paper is assigned at the end of a quarter or semester and generally counts toward the final grade. In addition, they will vary between schools and professors. You’ll find that some will only assign research papers in the form of term papers, while other times you’ll be expected to complete multiple research papers during a course.

    In the end, a term paper and research papers share many of the same features. Yet still this comes with certain limitations and considerations, as with most other things.

Writing a Research Paper


This handout provides detailed information about how to write research papers including discussing research papers as a genre, choosing topics, and finding sources.

Contributors: Jack Raymond Baker, Allen Brizee, Ashley Velázquez
Last Edited: 2018-02-14 03:36:12

The Research Paper

There will come a time in most students' careers when they are assigned a research paper. Such an assignment often creates a great deal of unneeded anxiety in the student, which may result in procrastination and a feeling of confusion and inadequacy. This anxiety frequently stems from the fact that many students are unfamiliar and inexperienced with this genre of writing. Never fear—inexperience and unfamiliarity are situations you can change through practice! Writing a research paper is an essential aspect of academics and should not be avoided on account of one's anxiety. In fact, the process of writing a research paper can be one of the more rewarding experiences one may encounter in academics. What is more, many students will continue to do research throughout their careers, which is one of the reasons this topic is so important.

Becoming an experienced researcher and writer in any field or discipline takes a great deal of practice. There are few individuals for whom this process comes naturally. Remember, even the most seasoned academic veterans have had to learn how to write a research paper at some point in their career. Therefore, with diligence, organization, practice, a willingness to learn (and to make mistakes!), and, perhaps most important of all, patience, students will find that they can achieve great things through their research and writing.

This handout will include the following sections related to the process of writing a research paper:

  • Genre- This section will provide an overview for understanding the difference between an analytical and argumentative research paper.
  • Choosing a Topic- This section will guide the student through the process of choosing topics, whether the topic be one that is assigned or one that the student chooses himself.
  • Identifying an Audience- This section will help the student understand the often times confusing topic of audience by offering some basic guidelines for the process.
  • Where Do I Begin- This section concludes the handout by offering several links to resources at Purdue, and also provides an overview of the final stages of writing a research paper.

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