Differences between a Research Paper and an Essay

09 Nov 2020By Mtemi

Writing academic papers is one of the most fundamental aspects of learning at all levels of education. Two of the main types of writing are essays and research papers. Students need to establish the differences between a research paper and an essay to ensure that they do not write an essay when they should be writing a research paper, and vice versa.

There are many differences between the two types of writing, but their common point is that they both have a defined topic and number of words.

Research Paper

A research paper examines the student’s ability to investigate and analyze other scholar’ opinions and views about a subject. The student should also demonstrate an ability to add to this research by incorporating their insights and ideas. As the name infers, a research paper entails conducting extensive research to develop a thorough understanding of the topic. Writing a research paper involves comparing the works of other scholars, compiling the information, and presenting it from one's point of view. The student has to present all facts and figures accurately and cite the works of other authors in the text. The objective is to help students develop their knowledge of a topic. Moreover, a research paper is longer than an essay.


An essay is shorter than a research paper. It comprises five paragraphs, the first being the introduction and the last as the conclusion. While research papers are mostly academic, there are different types of essays. These include persuasive, descriptive, academic, and argumentative essays. Typically, an essay outlines the writer's view on a topic and does not require extensive research like a research paper.  An essay aims to hone one's writing skills by expressing their thoughts about a subject logically and coherently.

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